For a year (or 10), I’ve been asking myself all of those questions everyone asks you when you are entering college.
“What do you think God’s plan is for your life?”
“What has God called you to do?”
“What gifts and talents has God given you so that you can make a difference for Christ in this world?”
I tried to answer them when I graduated from high school, but who knows what they are going to do with the rest of their life at 17? I certainly didn’t. Now at almost 30, I still don’t have a clue how to answer those questions. What’s even scarier is that I’m starting to be OK with that!
I’ve started to think maybe those questions have been created to spur on our American Idol-crazed society. My generation has been trained, maybe even brainwashed (I once considered conspiracy theorist a valid career option), to believe we were created for stardom and all we have to do is work hard, dream big, believe in ourselves and eventually we’ll become the famous people we deserve to be.
I’d like to believe that only those who “live in the world” seek fame and honor for themselves, but all I have to do is look in the mirror to see that just isn’t true. Hidden behind our desire to “discover God’s plan for my life” is a darker, scarier belief that, if we could discover that plan, we’d be rich or famous or powerful or influential, or some magical combination of all of the above.
We read Jeremiah 29:11, which was quoted to me numerous times when I was beginning this ridiculously long journey of self-discovery, and we think God’s going to give all of us Americans (the richest people in the world) whatever fame or fortune we can dream up. (If we’d read verse 10, we’d know the people of Israel were going to be held captive in Babylon for 70 years before they received any of these promises.)
I’ve taken psychological tests, aptitude tests and spiritual gift tests. I’ve written down my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve even prayed a little and done some Scripture reading. I’ve done all of the things they tell you to do in books that have titles like How to Discover God’s Plan for Your Life or Live Your Most Prosperous Life, Now!
Originally, I started by looking at the careers that seemed the most glamorous and fulfilling. By glamorous and fulfilling, I mean the jobs that would make me look the best in front of the people who mattered to me most and the careers that would get me the most pats on the back. Recently, though, I’ve sensed that God is graciously rescuing me from this fame and fortune idea that has been holding me captive like Babylon held the Israelites.
I’m not sure when the rescue began, but I know I tasted my first bit of freedom as I sat listening to a Haitian woman who runs a children’s home for nearly 30 children. I had been amazed by her ministry, but was even more impressed with her humble yet confident spirit. The work she does is humbling, but you see in her face the joy of doing a job that she believes will change the world. I just knew that she knew she was living the plan God had always intended for her. She had found what I have been searching for, and so I asked her, “How did you know this was God’s plan for you?”
Her answer was quite lengthy, but refreshing, and the thing that stuck out most to me was this one thing she said: “When God first began speaking to me about starting this ministry, He told me to start picking up trash.” Then she told me that for months, she just picked up trash. Everywhere she went, she felt compelled to pick up trash that other people had left lying on the ground.
There is another famous verse we Christians like to throw around. In the preceding verses, that we do not quote so regularly, God is telling the people of Israel that He is going to bring drought or a “command of locusts” or a plague of sickness up on the land, but then He says:
“… if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
I don’t know if there is anything more humbling than picking up other people’s trash. Which got me thinking (I’m a little slow sometimes), maybe if I was willing to do those kinds of unimportant jobs, maybe if I started doing acts of humility, then I’d actually become humble. And maybe if I could get this whole humility thing down, then I’d actually start seeking God’s face instead of the gift He might hold in His hand. And, then maybe in the process of seeking His face, I would notice how filthy my face is and I’d be desperate for God to clean it for me, and He would.
And, then, maybe … He’d rescue me from this wasteland of a life that I’ve been living as I searched for fame and glamour and fortune … and He’d heal my land.
Carey Morford is currently living the very glamorous and fame-filled life of a wife and mom who also works as a teaching assistant in the public school system.