If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem and my life depended on it,
I’d spend the first 55 minutes determining the right question to ask.
— ALBERT EINSTEIN —
Dear graduate, Congratulations! After years of hard work (or hardly working for some of you!), you’ve made it!
As great as this moment might be, I bet there is already a question working its way from the back of your mind to the front of your not yet fully developed prefrontal cortex – a question that is beginning to nag at you – and I bet that question is this: NOW WHAT?
How do I know this? Because it’s the one question you, and every other graduate, will likely ask for the rest of your life! As one achievement or accomplishment (or sadly, one loss or failure) ends you’re likely to begin the next chapter in life by asking, Now what?
Graduation gives way to college or a career! Now what?
You get a promotion! Now what?
You settle into a relationship! Now what?
You purchase your first home! Now what?
You have a kid and arrive safely to that home! Now what?
Or, You lose someone close to you. Now what?
You lose your job. Now what?
You get a divorce. Now what?
As defining as these moments are, it’s often the moment AFTER the moment that matters most.
Think about Steve Jobs for a second. You probably know him as the one responsible for shaping your digital life with products like iPods, iPhones, iPads, and the iCloud – the ecosystem holding all of those devices (and your life!) together.
But what you may not know is that Jobs resigned from his job at Apple in the mid 80’s after failing miserably as the CEO of the company he founded.
There’s little doubt that the founding of Apple, as well as his resignation, were defining moments in his life. But it was his Now What Moments that helped to solidify his legacy as a digital pioneer.
One year after resigning from Apple, Jobs purchased a small, relatively unknown, animation studio initially called The Graphics Group. Purchased in 1985 for a mere 5 million, Jobs’ latest company went on to produce a film that enabled that company to be publicly traded to the tune of $1 BILLION after its first day of trading!
You probably know The Graphics Group by another name – as the studio behind the Toy Story franchise, Pixar Animation!
Pixar was eventually purchased by Apple Computers and in 1997 and Steve Jobs resumed his role as the head of Apple Computers.
One of the things that separates Steve Jobs from other brilliant designers, entrepreneurs, and business people was his ability to realize his Now What Moment needed to be answered not just in his failure, but also in his success.
If your life plays out anything like most, you will have both successful and less so moments over your lifetime, but your willingness to think seriously and strategically during those moments will largely determine what happens next.
There’s a story in the book of Acts 2 about a small group of Jesus-followers and their moment after the moment. In the days following Jesus’ departure from earth to heaven, this group would begin to tell other people about Jesus. Their words were so convicting and inviting that thousands of others would become Jesus-followers too!
It’s hard to overestimate how surprising and shocking this would have been to that tiny group of Jesus-followers who, just days before, were paralyzed by their loss. Now they were faced with a second, and equally life-defining event: thousands were joining the movement! Now what?
I believe there’s a part of this story in Acts 2:42 that helps all of us ask better questions when we’re asking that one question we’re sure to find ourselves asking over and over again.
Here are three questions to ask when you find yourself asking, Now what?
1. WHERE DO I GO FOR ADVICE?
The earliest Jesus-followers spent time listening to and applying what they called, “The Apostles’ Teaching” (Acts 2:42). Really, this is a euphemism for their desire to lean into the Jesus-centered, Spirit-empowered words that answered the questions these earliest Jesus-followers faced. This isn’t about pious living as much as it is about practical wisdom.
So, where do you turn for this? Certainly the Bible is one such place to turn since it contains the story of a God who longs for you to experience the fullness of life in Jesus, but where else do you go when you’re asking yourself, Now what? What other places are capable of speaking into the in-between events of life?
My advice to you is to cultivate resources that can help you navigate from one moment to the next and to not limit yourself to any particular medium or genre (podcasts, blogs, books, articles, websites, etc as well as sacred and secular resources).
2. WHO’S HELPING ME MAKE MY NEXT MOVE?
The earliest Jesus-followers spent time in, what Acts 2:42 calls, fellowship. That’s not a word you’re likely to drop the next time you want to hang out with people you identify closely with – but that’s what they meant. Practically speaking, no one in the early days of the church went at their Now What moment alone! They not only leaned in to the Jesus-centered words of the Apostles, but they leaned on Jesus-centered people in uncertain times.
So, who’s in your corner? Who’s on your dream team or discernment team? Who’s helping you make those difficult decisions when you’re not sure what to do or where to go or how to move forward?
My advice to you is to cultivate relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds who can help you figure out the hard questions life has in store for you (by the way, churches are great places to do this!).
3. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I TALKED TO GOD ABOUT THIS?
At the very end of Acts 2:42 it says the earliest Jesus-followers often talked to God. This isn’t because the other two methods weren’t working, but because while they were leaning in to Jesus-centered words, and leaning on Jesus-centered people, they were listening out for God’s confirmation – they prayed.
So, when do you talk to God – or maybe its worth asking, do you talk to God? I know first hand how awkward prayer can be, how confusing it is at times, and how disappointing it is to feel like God isn’t listening. But maybe one thing that would help us is to understand prayer as both talking and listening. Sometimes we might just need to sit and listen to God after having listened to everything, and everyone else on the matter.
My advice to you is to cultivate a rhythm where talking to God isn’t such an awkward experience. Keep it small, keep it simple, keep it steady…and perhaps most importantly – keep it going!
I wish you all the best as you move from this moment to the next. Enjoy it! Celebrate it! Share it! But may you never forget it’s the moments AFTER this moment that will matter most!