28 April 2009

Timely reflections on venturing forth

This weekend I attended my fourth EMU graduation and remembered my own walk across that platform two years ago. Given the changes that seem to be taking shape on the horizon of my own life, I feel justified in claiming some of the wisdom and encouragement imparted to this year's graduates as my own.

During the Commencement Address, Joyce Bontrager Lehman quoted a passage that while usually attributed to Goethe is actually only a very loose 1835 translation of Faust. Regardless of who wrote them, I found these words incredibly relevant to my current situation. She reminded the graduates, "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

Now, I'll readily admit that I've always had a soft spot for profound thoughts and platitudes from authors whom I've never actually read, but this one is feels different. In the past weeks, as this dream of Vietnam has moved closer to becoming reality, I've experienced a fair share of hesitancy. The questions of the unknown have haunted me and I have contemplated simply giving up. While sharing these concerns with a dear friend, she surprised me by saying that one of the reasons she so admires my desire to do this is because she knows that if she was in my position, she would let her fear of those unknowns keep her from trying at all. It was at that moment that I committed to this venture. Seeing the faith that others have in my abilities enabled me to see that this is possible.

And, like Goethe said, it appears Providence is moving too. The most recent updates from Vietnam seem to indicate that my position will be approved. Each day it seems that greater possibilities are opening up for the taking. Yes, the unknown remains and I have no doubt that there will be many moments where this endeavor seems utterly impossible. But now that I've committed myself to it, I can begin to live in the reality of that anticipation.

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