Over the past year, I’ve had a strange, reoccurring dream. The details change, but the gist is the same: I’m getting married to someone I barely know.
In the first one, I remember Facebook-stalking the groom, trying to figure out more about him. In the next one, not only did I not know the guy well, but I didn’t know the details of my wedding at all. People were shuffling me around, telling me where to go. I was handed a dress I had never tried on before and pushed down the aisle. In each dream, I felt obligated to go through with the wedding, mostly because of others’ expectations for me. They were excited. Why shouldn’t I be too? Thankfully in one dream I broke down in tears to one of my friends and told her I didn’t want to get married. She said I didn’t have to.
They were all strange, but one stands out as the weirdest. I was still getting married to a man I didn’t know, but unlike in the previous dreams, I felt calm. I walked down the aisle and saw my husband-to-be, and I wasn’t worried. I thought, “He looks nice.” And then I woke up.
Now what was that all about? I’m no psychoanalyst, but I have a couple ideas. I think marriage represents commitment and just how scary that can be. I’ve experienced that fear recently. I graduated in 2018 and spent the next year searching for my “next thing,” with fits and starts. A little over a month ago I moved from Tennessee to Pennsylvania. I began a year of service through the Episcopal Service Corps. I started a new job at the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.
I researched these positions as best I could before committing to them. But ultimately, there were still many unknowns. I had never visited Harrisburg before. I didn’t know what living in Pennsylvania would be like. I didn’t know any of the people I’d live or work with. I didn’t know what my job or co-workers would be like.
On top of this, I’m working for an institution with an unsteady future. Church attendance is declining. The Episcopal Church has very few children, youth, and young adults. From a 2016 study, the median age in the Episcopal church is 56. Around 35% of the church is over 65, compared to around 14% of the general population. We have no idea what our future will be.
But the thing is, none of us do. There is no such thing as a steady future. We can plan all we want, but tomorrow is always outside of our control.
Sometimes I wonder if my planning for the future is actually an excuse not to engage in the present. Am I taking responsibility for my experience right now? Am I fully seeing what’s right in front of me?
I can’t know my own future. I can’t know the church’s future. But I know what it is to be present. And I think that’s really the will of God. I typically conceive of God’s will as some future thing. Something I will discern and accomplish some day. But it’s right here and now. The will of God is whatever is in front of me at any given moment. As it’s been said, the mission field is between your feet.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. As Jesus said, I have to let tomorrow worry about it self. But like that strange last dream, I can still commit to the task given to me when I don’t know the outcome. I can trust that I have enough for today. In faith.