Made to Worship, Called to Love
Everyone expects me to have a plan. And it’s not just me — everyone expects every 22-year-old graduating from college to have a plan. To have some sort of dream of where you want to be in ten or twenty or thirty years and then to have a road map of how you plan to get there. To have a plan of how your first job will equip you for your future. To have your career path mapped out, from entry-level job to retirement.
Because of this the questions seem never to end — “What are you doing next year?” “Do you think you’ll ever go to law school?” “Is graduate school in your future?” “Do you think you’ll ever move back to Mississippi?” “What are your long-term career goals?” The questions are overwhelmingly stressful even when you have an idea of the answers or what they will be.
But that’s not me.
I don’t know exactly what I want to do this year or next year or in five years or in ten years. I don’t even know what I want to do tomorrow — how can you expect me to have my life planned out.
Last semester in one of my classes, we read The Protestant Ethic. Having read that, I do kind of understand this incredible American obsession with career. Your career, according to The Protestant Ethic, is not merely a way of making money; it is your calling, your main purpose on this earth. And doing well in your career is a direct sign of your salvation.
I hope I don’t have to argue that a successful career doesn’t mean you’re a good Christian. I think we as modern Christians have pretty much rejected that part of The Protestant Ethic. But I really do believe we all still see your job as your calling, as your main purpose on earth.
When we ask children ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, we expect them to respond ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘fireman’. What they want to be ought to be a career.
But is that what’s most important? Is being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a fireman what the child will be in the deepest sense of the word?
I hope not.
I hope instead children will grow to be many other things before their career. I hope they will be generous and kind and honest and just and joyful and humble and patient and loving and a million other Christ-like things. All of those things are so much more important than your career, but somehow we’ve lost that. How sad!
Focusing on my character goals rather than my occupational goals makes all those questions people ask me seem unimportant. I may not know what I want to do as a job after graduation or where I see myself in five or ten years, but I do know what sort of person I want to become. And I may not know what path will take me to a fulfilling job or whether I’ll move back to Mississippi one day, but I do know how to wake up each day trying to be more Christ-like than the day before.
One of my favorite choruses has the following lyrics:
You and I were made to worship. You and I were called to love. You and I are forgiven and free. When you and I embrace surrender, when you and I choose to believe, you and I will see what we were meant to be.
What a beautiful truth! Our “calling” in life is not our career. We were not made to be doctors or lawyers or teachers or firemen. We were made to give glory to God, and our calling is to love His people.
God’s plan for your life might involve you becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or a fireman, but that’s not his purpose for your life. His purpose for you is to make known His glory and His love.
And I don’t want to forget that. I can’t forget that. Even in the hustle of trying to find a job and figure out my “ten-year plan”.
And, somehow, resting in that knowledge makes the job-search anxiety I feel fade away.
So next time someone asks me what I want to be, I might just respond with generous or loving or kind or helpful or patient or any of the countless other qualities that are more important than occupation. Next time someone asks me what I want to do next year, I might just respond that I want to love others or be kind to strangers or give generously or help those in need or any of the other countless actions more important than whatever job I’ll be doing after graduation.
What do you want to be?