“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s an innocent enough question, and one I’ve asked plenty of kids…including my own. But you know, I’m starting to think it’s also incredibly misguided and misguiding.
What I mean by that is, we ask that question as though the answer is what determines the course of our life. We ask it as though it’s the most important question any of us will ever come to a conclusion on.
Today I was listening to Jennie Allen’s podcast. Jennie was hosting Beth Moore, who was sharing about the new fiction book she recently published (which is excellent, by the way!) At one point, Jennie was thanking Beth for the influence she has had in her life, particularly early on when she first came to love Jesus. I was struck by something Beth said.
This is not a direct quote, but basically she was remarking on the fact that at the time when Jennie first heard Beth speak and was drawn to Jesus, podcasting was not a thing. No one had ever heard of podcasting, no one would have aspired to be a podcaster. All those years ago, Jennie put her faith and trust in Jesus, but never would have imagined that she would one day be living out that faith through such a thing as a podcast. And yet, here is Jennie, hosting a podcast through which she shares her faith and offers a platform for others to do the same.
Beth’s point being that we can never imagine what God might intend for us to do with our gifts and talents, and so we do ourselves a disservice when we lock ourselves into some idea of what we think our calling should look like. Instead, we ought only to be obedient each step of the journey to use all of our gifts and talents to His glory.
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of things I have thought I might do one day when I grow up. As a child, there was a time when I thought I wanted to be a counselor, plenty of seasons where I knew I would be a teacher one day. As I got older I began to picture myself doing more specific things like running a battered women’s shelter or a halfway home. I could go on and on.
But the more life I live, and the longer I walk with the Lord, the less I care about what I ever do with my life. I don’t care what job title is on my name tag or Facebook profile. I’m no longer concerned with climbing any version of a corporate (or non-profit, for that matter) ladder.
I want to know God more today than I did yesterday. I want to honor Him and magnify Him better today than I did yesterday. I want to share His gospel more boldly today than I did yesterday. I want to walk more obediently today than I did yesterday. I want to love people with the love of God more fully today than I did yesterday. I want my heart to break for the things that break His heart more today than it did yesterday. I want to be more compelled to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God today than I was yesterday.
And I can strive for all of those things in whatever position He appoints me to.
Sometimes I think we get so caught up in thinking about what we’re going to do when we grow up that we lose sight of who we’ve been called to be right now.
As young people, this can cause us to feel like our ability to serve God or walk in our calling is some far off thing that maybe one day we’ll reach if we make all of the right choices along the way. As older people, sometimes we can feel as though we missed our chance. Like it’s too late for a new career, or we missed our opportunity to pursue some dream.
All the while, God has assignments and appointments for us each day to walk in our calling. He is not looking for us to map out our entire lives and succeed in getting to the final destination. He’s looking for us to trust Him with our entire lives and be obedient in the next step He illuminates. It makes me think about the verse in Psalm 119 that tells us His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
I heard an illustration recently that a lamp doesn’t necessarily shine far enough to show you the end of the path, it shines enough to show you the next step. I believe it’s by God’s merciful design that He doesn’t part the clouds and send us a sign to give us all of the details of His plans for us, from beginning to end. I don’t know about you, but I tremble at how quickly I’m sure I would abandon my sense of reliance on Him and His word and steamroll my way to the end goal. Instead, he calls us to small steps of obedience throughout our life. And along the way He has given us His word as the lamp unto our feet, in order that we might be able to avoid pitfalls and dangers, trusting Him with the rest of the map.
I’m sure I will probably ask my kids what they want to be when they grow up plenty more times over the course of their lives. But, I pray that my more frequent question, and the question I teach them to ask of themselves, is “what did God ask you to do today?”.