dear hilary: the thinnest envelope

Dear Hilary,

I’ve been telling people for a good while now that I have plans for graduate school. You see, I’ve always had plans for graduate school. Once it was law school and once it was nursing and a few times it’s been a joint JD/PhD and always it’s been the idea that I should and can be a part of that. But lately, when I tell people, I tell them the school, the fellowship, the hope, and then I start to worry. Because what if I don’t get in? What if I get that thin envelope in the mailbox? What if I’m not one of the few who get chosen to be a part of the class of… ? What will they all think? What will I do?

Love,
Nervous

Dear Nervous,

What will you do? I’ll just ask the question back at you. It isn’t for anyone else to work out or reason how you build a life after that gnawing possibility of rejection. We can give you the pep talks, pass the B&J, or the g&t, or both, tell you to stop worrying and stop feeling that prick of fear, because you have a beautiful life… but this one belongs to you and there isn’t all that much I can tell you.¬†

You, however. You can tell you a lot.

You can tell yourself that the meaning of the thinnest envelope is less than the meaning of the love you’ve sincerely built in the afternoons and the extra hours and the holding your palms open for another heart. You can tell yourself that if graduate school A or B ¬†says no, it means less about who you are than the six pairs of eyes that gaze up at you during the busiest time at the prayer circle, mean less than the three year old who thanks God for you, right there in her list of horses and birthday parties.

You can approach the mirror with an open hand and whisper that you are going to hold it open and watch what is put inside it, without peering sideways at what is put in the palms of the other hands that grace your life. You can imagine yourself a seed, in a fallow field, hungry for the rain, but unafraid.

You can whisper a bit of peace, say Sarah Bessey‘s, “calm your heart” while you drive home. You can remember that not one of us came into the world stamped with a seal of graduate school approval and all of us came in with God’s image borne deep in our bones and His law written on our hearts and He is right there, engraving His name over the walls of our hearts.

You can pour the second glass of red wine. You can write yourself a letter and put it in the thinnest envelope and mail it to yourself for the same day that those other envelopes, thick or thin, arrive next year. You can write love inside that letter: love for the work that has belonged to you, love for the work that is mysterious and yet to come, love for the people, love for the places, always more love than you were able to bear but you somehow did, anyway.

That’s all you.

What people think if you don’t get in is a deep fear that lurks under the bed. Will they love me, if I’m not a ? we whisper. If I never have a – if I fail to win – if I don’t – ? And this is what will catch us slowly, the sinking feeling that perhaps what they love is only how well we’ve performed.

You work your way out by rereading the old and good and true words. You run back to the promises that we have been set free, and He who loves, He is from everlasting. His command to abide in his love. His promise to send His Spirit to be with us.

You are loved abundantly, dear one. Not because of an envelope or a graduate school or an anything. Love is just like that: overwhelming and rich and somehow, always, seeking us. Let it find you.

Love,
hilary