September 23, 2010
When I Grow Up
"Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, then we will live and also do this or that."
"You can be anything you want when you grow up, sweetie."
My parents profoundly ignored that phrase when I was growing up. I never heard them say those words, although the self-esteem trend was certainly making its way through the schools and Saturday morning cartoons. That's not to say that they told me the opposite or never encouraged my efforts. On the contrary, my mother carted me to iceskating practice, art lessons, piano lessons, debate club, and even soccer (for one pathetic season). She pushed me to do my best at whatever activity or homework assignment came my way, because it was a matter of "doing all things for the glory of God." And that's exactly why she and my father never told me I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.
My parents knew better.
Instead of the infinite-potential catchphrase, they would tell me things like, "If God wants you to be a concert pianist, then you will be," or "God gave you this talent for a reason, so we're going to cultivate it." That took the focus off of what I "wanted to be" and onto how God had gifted me. For that reason, my mother pushed me into writing tutoring even though I absolutely hated it at the time. I certainly had no intentions of being an editor when I grew up. Little did I know.
Can we really be anything we want when we grow up? The famous verses in Proverbs suggest otherwise. "In his heart a man plans his course," says Proverbs 16:9. Sure, I can make plans to be anything I want. "But the Lord determines [my] steps," as the verse concludes. My parents understood this from their own crazy life stories. So they told me not about my endless potential, but about God's ability to take me to places unknown and undreamed of.
I laugh inwardly when people ask me where I want to be in five or ten years, because Heaven only knows where I actually will be. Besides, I'm still inexperienced in all this career and marriage stuff, and still figuring out my goals. How comforting it is to know that it's my responsibility to cultivate the little talents I have and let God decide where to take them.
Even at this point in my life, I can look back and see the long line of events, circumstances, character-building chances (oh boy!), and opportunities that I couldn't have orchestrated myself. I see now that I couldn't have been anything I wanted. Instead, I have become - and will become - whatever God wants me to be. After all, He knows me more intimately than I know myself. He knows exactly how I can serve His kingdom best. Yes, that's what I want to be when I grow up.
Intersecting Faith & Life: "If the Lord wills, then we will live and also do this or that." Are we aware just how fully dependent we are on God? Does this give us comfort? Or does it scare us that we control so little of our lives? Are you excited to see where God will take you, or afraid that His plan will be different from your own? It all comes down to a single question: are we willing to surrender our plans for His glory?