I shot out of the gate ready. There was no wishy-washy, “Maybe, I’ll give this a try.”, “Maybe I’ll just get my AA for now.” No maybe – I knew. I was leaving my private high school and small town behind, headed straight for a communications degree. A different coastline and cities with more than a handful of stoplights would be my future.

I was decisive and ready.

The college rugby team showed up to help me unpack my car and I said goodbye to my parents and my high school boyfriend who came to help me set up. The emotions were real, but I knew what I was doing. I was determined.

Hours later my roommate introduced herself and informed me that there had been a mistake. She requested to room with friends in a dorm across campus. She had already contacted housing and asked to be moved as soon as possible. “I’ll be out of your way in a day or two.”

Welcome to college.

I got a job the next week in the career services office. Direct access to career counselors and job placement gurus seemed like a sweet inroad. After light conversation the department head asked about my intended major and I didn’t miss a beat, “Communications” I responded confidently, with my best anchor-woman smile.

She matched both my confidence and my timing. “You don’t want to major in communications. The field is over-crowded. Job placement is poor. You would be wise to pick something different as soon as possible.”

No roommate and a bad major. Welcome to college.

All of my expectations, my shored up confidence, began to fray at the edges.

I left the university a few months later and the whole thing felt something like failure. Right out of the gate, failure.

For years I would learn the same lesson in a variety of ways. I would back track and re-group, make new plans and set my sights on a new goal. Confident in my plans I stepped bravely, but misplaced confidence has a way of leading you down dead-end roads. And dead-end roads can shake the foundation of a self-made confidence.

Recently, while reading through the Psalms I stopped short in Chapter 32. I love the way God describes His leadership in verse 8.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.

That picture of His eyes on me, gently leading and guiding me is so beautiful. But the warning in the very next verse caught my attention.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. (Psalm 32:9)

Wow. He might as well have named a 20-year-old me in those verses. He was guiding me with His eyes but much of the time I wasn’t looking up to see Him. I had no understanding, and needed to bump into walls, trip and fall, and be harnessed in order to come near and look up.

Almost twenty years later my life looks a million miles different than my 20-year-old dreams. I live in a town with just a few stoplights, not far from the town I grew up in. But looking up, finding His eyes on me, guiding me here, has changed everything.

His sense of direction trumps any location. Trading my dreams for His, those ones we get to walk out together, is sweeter than any I could have come up with on my own.

Life is better unbridled. Imagine that.

In all of our planning and hoping and dreaming, which I still do today no doubt, may we have the courage to keep looking up; knowing real freedom comes when we place all of our confidence in the One who is truly worthy.


Katie Westenberg is a wife and mom to four, who is passionate about fighting fear and living brave.  She writes to inspire women to live their bravest lives at I Choose Brave and various other places online.  Married for 16 years, she lives in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying life outside the city limits and finding a little time to write and speak as well.
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