At the beginning of first grade this past fall, I asked Cadence what she wanted to be when she grew up. It wasn’t the first time I’ve asked- we talk about it all the time actually- and her answers always bring me such joy. I wanted to record her answer as some sort of mile marker in what I’m sure will be a long list of things she’ll ‘want to be’ over her lifetime.
Right now, she wants to be a rescue vet, which might be made up, but the concept is absolutely fully constructed in her imagination and I love it. She also wants to be an Arbonne mommy so that she can work as a rescue vet only when she wants (totally winning at showing her the power of making money work for her!) and she wants to be a singer on Wednesdays and maybe on Sundays at church.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing that? Why not?
I remember kids in my elementary classes sharing that they wanted to be firefighters (this is Merit), astronauts (it was the 80/90’s after all), and policemen. We wanted to be what we thought was cool! We wanted to be heroes!
I wanted to be famous! The very first time I saw Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (I have no idea why it was THAT movie that lit the fire, but hey!), I knew that I was going to grow up and be an actor and marry someone who was also famous. When I was thirteen and saw Justin Timberlake for the first time, I knew it would be him who I would marry.
I don’t know if you know this, but I’m not famous and Justin, sadly, married someone else. *Sigh*
But in my early twenties, as the story goes, I decided that I wanted something else entirely. Actually, I wanted basically the opposite of what I had been chasing up until that point. Has that ever happened to you? Has what you thought you wanted turned out to be different from what you ACTUALLY wanted? Did you change course? You know what, I don’t think many of the kids who in elementary school wanted to be a fireman ended up as a fireman. I don’t think many of the kids who wanted to be astronauts ever even went to space camp.
What I wanted when I was eight differed greatly from what I wanted when I was twenty. And what I wanted when I was twenty differed greatly from what I wanted when I was thirty. And if I’m being honest, I think I started to make decisions about what I wanted based on what I thought would get me there. And what’s worse, is I started to make decisions based on what ‘the world’ told me I SHOULD want!
So when I wanted ‘choices’ I went to college so that I would have something to ‘fall back on.’ When I wanted security and stability, I got a job working in the medical field. When I wanted more money, I worked more hours.
I didn’t necessarily want to go to college, or be a medical assistant, or work more hours… I wanted what those things offered me. And what I found is I made a whole lot of choices in my life aiming at a secondary result as opposed to aiming at what I actually wanted. Are you with me on this? I was told that, “If you want to be successful, you’re going to want to get good grades so you can get into a good college so that you can get a good job.”
But what is success? And what’s up with all the ‘good?’ What if I want great?
Somewhere along the way, life shifts our focus from what we actually want to what we think we should be doing, am I right? When was the last time you stopped to consider if what you’re doing is really what you want to be doing? When was the last time you took stock of what your life is going to look like five and ten years down the road if you stay on the path you’re on?
Here’s the deal, I really liked working as a medical assistant. It was fun, I was learning a bunch, and it paid okay (at the time). But God didn’t put me on this earth to be a medical assistant. And although I would have been perfectly fine doing that work for ten hours a week or so, because I enjoyed it about that much, the whole fifty hours a week thing was basically like nails in my eyeballs. I found myself, just two years in, wondering if this was all there was. I would get home at night, tired and annoyed and I would think, “Dang it, they need me there tomorrow too. And the next day. And the next day!” Over time I started to feel this really deep seeded anxiety and stress, not because I disliked it, but because it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing with the majority of my time.
And to make matters worse, I had to put to rest any hope of things really ever shifting into true fulfillment, because I had watched my mom work a job she ‘liked’ for over thirty years only to struggle, complain about co-workers, and feel under appreciated and desperate for retirement. So yes, this really WAS all there was and was ever going to be. “The grind.” “The rat race.” “The 9-5.” It’s no wonder I would find myself welling up in the morning as I was putting on my mascara. I was trapped in what the world had told me I was ‘supposed’ to do and want. This was ‘good.’
I’ve been asked many times over the years about overcoming my crippling anxiety. I never really struggled with anxiety until I had a massive sudden onset in my early twenties that wound up with me in the back of an ambulance and caused me to spiral into a very real depression. I still recognize anxiety in my life today, but it doesn’t control me anymore like it used to. The question I’m asked all the time is: How did I get over it? How did I control it? And there are a number of things I did to grab ahold of my psyche again, but the true ‘cure,’ if you will, came when I figured out what had brought it on in the first place.
We live in a world where we want to diagnose things so we can treat symptoms. We want answers and solutions to the symptoms, but we’re not looking at the causes. Someone has high blood pressure and we give them a pill as opposed to look at what caused it and reverse the causation! It’s all about fixing the symptoms and not about conquering the underlying problem.
So when people ask me how I controlled my anxiety, my answer is that I changed my life. It wasn’t a pill I needed (although I took one or two) it was a shift!
Y’all, we were designed, created, for a purpose. And our heart and soul will always feel unsettled, unfulfilled, uncertain until we set ourselves free to pursue that purpose. And if I had to guess, I would wager that what you really feel called to do, or what you really love deep down in your soul, is probably not what you spend most of your time doing. Am I right? This calling, this fulfillment is probably outside your box and outside your comfort zone. And that’s probably why you haven’t stepped into it already.
Here’s the deal: It’s not going to come any closer to you. You’re going to have to go to it. But you have to first know what ‘it’ is.
In John 1:38 Jesus asks his followers as they are literally walking behind him in awe of him: “What are you seeking?” He doesn’t ask because He doesn’t know. Of course He knows the truest desire of their hearts. He asks because He wonders if THEY know. And if they do know… will they be brave enough to ask for it? Will they be bold enough to go after it?
In the book The Last Arrow, absolutely one of my very favorites (I’m reading it now for the second time), the author, Erwin Raphael, points out that the blind man who sought after Jesus to heal him, upon being asked what he was seeking, did not ask for a walking stick (after all, Jesus was a carpenter and could likely whittle up a nice one for him). He didn’t ask for a seeing eye dog.
He asked for his sight.
He asked for what he REALLY wanted. And Jesus gave it to him. I’m sure that had the man asked for a walking stick, Jesus would have granted his request. Do you think the man would have walked away with his perfect and holy walking stick only to think, “I wonder what would have happened if I would have asked for what I was really seeking?”
This lights up my whole heart and reminds me that our time here is too short to waste pursing the things that get us pretty close to what we’re seeking just because we’re afraid to desire and pursue the very things we were designed and created to want. Surely the man wanted to see… it was what he was designed to do!
Don’t get me wrong, I know that God’s plan for us is not to just give us the things we want, and I know that life is not fair and we won’t always have everything play out our way- of course that’s not true, at least not in this world. But what if God put desires on our hearts absolutely hoping we’d pursue them?
Heaven forbid we don’t take the opportunity to search our hearts and KNOW what it is that we really are seeking in this life. And once we know, how dare we not give ourselves permission to pursue that? So my challenge to you today is to spend some time really answering this question:
What are you seeking?
And when you find the answer (wealth, fame, passion, love, success, admiration, etc), I want you to define it for yourself. The world will steer us wrong 99% of the time. For example, when I took a moment to define success for myself, I discovered that I was already there! That’s why the pursuit of it had left me feeling empty. I already had it! Wealth- what is that? A certain dollar amount? Probably not, because once you hit it, it won’t be enough! Maybe if you reflect on YOUR definition of what being wealthy looks like, you’ll discover you’re much closer than you think.
Chris Stapleton, a family favorite around here, sings:
Some say love is more precious than gold.
It can’t be bought and it can’t be sold.
I’ve got love enough to spare.
And that makes me a millionaire.
So what are you seeking? And is it a simple perspective shift that will help you find fulfillment in what you already have, or is there something else? And if you know what you want, what’s stopping you from asking for it and pursuing it?
What are you waiting for?
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