What do you want to be when you grow up? Can you remember answering this question as a child? I had various answers I think, over the years. Often my answer was mother, sometimes teacher or nurse (pretty standard); as my interest in exploring science was developed, I even thought astronaut, scientist, doctor. ‘Writer’ was always in the mix, but it was something I never really knew how to pursue. I didn’t want to teach English and I didn’t want to go into journalism.
Well, I did pursue a career in the sciences and I did become a mother and while writing was a passion set aside for a time, the journey to rediscovering it has brought a song to my soul. But I don’t know if pursuing and becoming these things makes me feel like I’ve ‘arrived’ and I wonder if I’m really all that grown up.
In a more philosophical moment, I can re-frame the question to what kind of a person do I want to be when I grow up? And even: what kind of people do I want to raise? We’re not just raising doctors and teachers and caregivers and entrepreneurs, we’re raising husbands and wives and mothers and fathers and friends and co-workers and neighbours and citizens. Yet, for me, even that consideration pales in light of my deepest desire for the souls of the people I’m raising. Because while I can’t receive Christ for my children, it is my role to lead them and guide them and train them and to teach them the Gospel and how to apply it daily. I can’t do it on my own, I’m broken and sinful and in need of a Saviour, and because God loves me, He extends not only mercy, but also grace and I can receive it in Christ (not because I have earned it, but because it’s given to me) and I can live covered by the righteousness of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I need to hear this sermon on a daily basis and turn around and preach it to myself and others, whether in action or words.
This leads me to many considerations as I address the thinking of our success driven culture. It shouldn’t surprise us that God and the world hold differing views. Yet, God, all the while – before He laid the foundations of the earth – has had a plan for people, His image bearers, His workmanship, created in Christ for good works, prepared for us beforehand by Him, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
It’s a question that comes up in different ways over the course of a lifetime. I’m asking my teens so they can choose courses according to career goals and plans. My dad has recently retired, and my husband has begun dreaming ahead to empty nesting and we all face the question anew. Does it all encompass the same line of thinking? What is my purpose? Why am I here? Do I matter? What’s it all for?
Not that long ago, my youngest child entered school and the question presented itself many times over… NOW WHAT ARE you going to DO? Aaaack!!! I don’t know, I don’t have a vision a goal… It’s been so long since I dreamed beyond my children, I don’t even know what I like to do, my life is filled with meeting the needs of everyone else. God has not given me a laid out plan so stop stressing me out! Are people judging me because I’m not rushing out to find paid employment, or returning to my chosen career? What a waste of education and on and on.
While I agree that we shouldn’t aimlessly wander through life, sometimes, for some people, the defining of 5 year and 10 year plans can overwhelm if not become dangerous idols and self-driven agendas rather than submissions to God’s work. Again, I’m not saying we don’t need plans, sometimes there can be comfort and security and direction and certainly, necessary preparation for the next step. But, are we willing to let God lead the process and seek His direction for our lives?
Because obviously, I seem to be the type that was overwhelmed by the development of formalized 5 year plans, I needed to get quiet with God to hear His purpose for me yet again in a new life season. In searching the Scriptures and looking back over the course of His leading over the years, I can see His hand developing passions, talents, skills, opportunities, character growth and course rerouting through failings and misapplications. He is the one weaving together the chapters of my story and so perfectly fitting them within His GREATER story. He reveals emerging themes and I’ve come to the conclusion that while my platform of purpose might change throughout the stages of my life, my purpose has always remained the same, as the Shorter Westminster Catechism states: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 says the whole duty of man is to Fear God and keep His commandments. Micah 6:8 says that God has told man what is good and what is required of us… to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with God. 1Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whatever we do, do it all for the glory of God. Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God exalted Christ so that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 tells us that God wills to make us worthy of His calling that we might fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus might be glorified in us and we in him according to his grace. John 15:8 tells us that it is to God’s glory that we bear much fruit, and prove to be disciples and that if we keep his commands, we abide in his love so that his joy might fill us to overflowing. Luke 10:27, Mark 12:29-31 and Matthew 22:37 all tell us that the greatest command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and the second greatest is to love our neighbour as ourself.
Defining my purpose in light of these Biblical truths, gives me much freedom and peace to persevere in whatever is set before me, whether it’s easy, bewildering, uncomfortable, fulfilling, mundane, exciting, painful, etc. God is in the big and God is in the small. All is sacred. He is glorified in the splendors of creation and in the washing of sinful man’s feet. He is glorified on His heavenly throne and in a manger leading to the cross.
May we not shun the monotonous in our callings, because regardless of how big or small we feel they are, ALL of them pale in relation to the grandness of His glory! Our callings were never meant to be about us, but all about Him anyways. About His name, not ours, about His kingdom, not ours, about His generous and giving nature and creativity, in bestowing gifts and talents to ordinary people. If you’re the type who likes a 5 year plan, prayerfully go for it! If you’re the type that likes to see where each step takes you, prayerfully go for it! Be more affected by the One who calls than by the calling itself and invest in the lifelong journey of discovering and growing your gifts to make Him known and to build up others.
May we pray together, along with Paul: