In sharing some of my own story in my previous post
, I shared how I grew up with a sort of “promise child” mentality, and how that caused me to have a warped view of destiny and calling. In this post, I’ll be talking about how God has adjusted my perspective. And forgive me in advance if I talk a lot about myself in this post; please know that I’m just processing some personal stuff, and letting you in on it. 🙂
After re-reading the last post, I can really see a need for a “part 2” (which I was going to do anyway). There really needs to be some clarification here. So let me start with that.
I think in some way, all of us have a desire to reach for greatness. It’s my belief that it’s part of our physical and spiritual DNA, because we were created in God’s image. It is why we dream, and why the enemy of our soul works so hard to suppress those dreams. But I think we get confused about what “greatness” looks like, and we set up these crazy standards for comparing ourselves with one another. We somehow get the idea that greatness can be assessed by having a certain set of skills or gifts, or by attaining fame, or by having any number of achievements, or by belonging to the “elite”, or what have you. Just like the posts I wrote recently
about the idea of equality…”greatness” becomes a measure of comparison that suggests one person is better
than others, instead of a character quality that informs our actions. And so with that mentality, when you load up a young person’s psyche with the idea that they are “special” and destined for greatness, it can really mess with their perspective. And that’s sort of how it happened with me. All the affirmation might have simply been for encouragement, but somehow it came across to me that either people thought I was better than others–or that I needed
to be. That’s what I mean by great expectations; and that’s part of what informed my sense of destiny.
Of course, in growing up and getting knocked around a bit, eventually I learned that I wasn’t any better than anyone else. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that my sinful, arrogant, selfish self was nowhere near the image I was trying to live up to. And that filled me with an incredible amount of shame. Countless times, I felt like I’d forfeited my “destiny” by my own brokenness, like I’d failed God and everyone else, and would never become who I was “meant” to be.
Remember the 2000 U.S. elections, between George W. Bush and Al Gore–how the election came down to a few hundred votes in Florida, and how it took over a month and a Supreme Court decision before Bush was declared the winner? I wanted Bush to win, but I felt very sorry for Al Gore. I noticed that throughout his campaign he’d talked about his senator father, and how he’d been sort of groomed for this moment in history. You could tell he believed with all his heart that he was destined to be President–and when he didn’t win, for awhile he acted like he didn’t even know who he was anymore, like his whole identity had been attached to one moment that never arrived. This is a good example of what it is like to feel like you have blown your destiny.
So when God began to get hold of my perspective on this whole thing…you can imagine how freeing it was.
First, He began to reshape my performance mentality (which I think most of us struggle with, actually), and I began to embrace the idea that my identity was not in what I did or what I accomplished, but that my identity came from being God’s child. That although doing good has a reward, the Father delighted in me because I existed, and I could do nothing to make Him love me any more or any less. This is something I’m still getting into my soul; it takes awhile. 🙂 But this is freeing me from the burden of “great expectations.”
Second, He allowed me to experience deep failure. He let me spin the wheels of my religious thinking until I ran out of gas. In going through an extended season where no amount of praying and strategizing caused any visible change, I learned the futility of trying to do things on my own. I began learning that I am not responsible for what I cannot control, and therefore I do not need to try to control everything. This took a great weight off my shoulders.
And now, my picture of destiny and calling is changing. As I look at my life and see (like so many of us) that my journey looks nothing like I thought it would, sometimes there’s a sense of regret and remorse, and that voice that tells me “you failed” starts whispering in my ear. But when I can also look and see how much God’s hand has guided me over these years, how much healing has transpired, how hard times have shaped me, and how much blessing there has been along the way–I can’t simply write off all these years as lost. I see my beautiful family, I see the passion of the dream in my son’s eyes, like it was in mine at his age. I hear God’s voice in all this…God’s been working His plan all along, even if it doesn’t look like what I thought. And I realize that maybe destiny isn’t some goal I must achieve, some straight line I must walk flawlessly, or some mystical ship that’s going to come in if I just wait and hope and pray hard enough. Maybe what I’m living out now–maybe this is destiny. The fact that in all the twists and turns of life, and with all the bad choices I’ve made along the way–God has still worked His purposes, and is not finished yet. Maybe, from the standpoint of a believer, destiny is more about what God will do in us than what we will do for God. Maybe destiny is more about God having His way in spite of us, not because of us.
As for calling, and how our destiny ties into what we do with our lives…I see these things in a more relaxed manner nowadays. There are still deep desires God has placed in my heart, things that give me great joy and fulfillment–music being one of them. I’m realizing there is not one “special” thing I must do with this, but many potential things I can do with it. And when I operate out of these God-given desires of the heart, I am walking in part of my calling, and toward my destiny. And as I trust myself to God, I can trust Him to have His way, even if I don’t understand the path from time to time.
I still believe it’s a good thing to seek God for direction for our lives, and I still believe in dreams, and I even believe it’s good to affirm and encourage the young that they are special–as long as “special” means “unique”, not “better”. 🙂 When I talk about the burden of expectations, I’m not suggesting that we have no expectations at all, or no aspirations, or no goals. But when your identity hinges on those expectations, you are driven to pursue them for your validation–you are not free to pursue them for the joy of it. Whatever I do from here on, I don’t want to do it because I have something to prove, but because I love to do it. That, I believe, is the place where life is lived.
If you have lasted this long between the two posts…thank you for mercifully indulging me while I process these rambling thoughts. If I can explain what it means to be free from the “great expectations”–I guess I would say it feels lighter. I’m traveling light.
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