What do you want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

How many times were we asked that as kids? And how many kids announce that they want to be a “nobody” when they become adults? We want to be astronauts, firefighters and doctors, or perhaps president. In many Christian families, the goal is more spiritual: pastor or missionary. The bottom line is, everyone wants to be significant.

I was raised with the message that “I could be anything I wanted” when I grew up. Of course that’s ridiculous. I’m such a klutz, I fell off my stool in art class in 8th grade (and the social fail of it obviously scarred me for life). Clearly, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete… or a whole host of other things.

Still, I did well in school and was sent off to a well-known university with the expectation that I was going to be not only significant, but famous—the next Jacques Cousteau or Jane Goodall, perhaps.

Everything went well until I graduated. I had my fancy degree in hand, but all that potential employers wanted to know was, could I type? (This was in the old days when women were just beginning to find themselves “liberated.”) I was shocked to realize that I actually had no marketable skills.

I realize now that I needed more education—a PhD, really. But I was burned out on school, and surprisingly apathetic about doing research. At the time, a bachelor’s degree was considered the ticket to a “real” job—and no one was biting. I was a failure.

Looking back, it’s clear that God had some major work to do in my life, especially in the area of humility. I finally found a job paying minimum wage, unpacking shipping boxes and logging the contents into a spreadsheet. A year later I was back in school, studying for a teaching credential, and a year after that I was loving teaching biology and other related topics at a high school in San Jose, California.

Many years later, I found myself once again floundering, trying to reinvent myself after staying home and raising our two daughters. They’d grown up and I was out of a job. For a number of reasons, I didn’t want to go back to teaching high school, so I started considering other possibilities. “What does God want me to be when I grow up?”

Pete had started his ministry by this time, and it was assumed I’d join him there. I tried, I really did. On three different occasions, I became his administrative assistant. I’m very organized, and this should have been the perfect roll for me.

Instead, it almost destroyed both me and our marriage. Pete and I have extremely different working styles, plus the job threatened to overwhelm our relationship. Plus, it just felt… wrong. God finally brought along the person He’d prepared for that position and made it clear that He had other plans for my life.

The problem was, I didn’t know what those plans were. Or I just didn’t see it because I was looking for something else.

I expected God to have some sort of full-ministry career for me… something like caring for widows and orphans, or heading overseas to be a missionary. (So what if I’m horrible at dealing with culture shock, and have a husband who is called to stay here.)

Or maybe I should get a job flipping burgers. What a waste of a good education, but I’d learned my lesson about humility, right? I thought I was willing to do anything, but I was in fact developing a martyr complex.

Maybe God couldn’t use me at all.

I actually expected it to be something hard, something I wouldn’t like, that would cause tremendous spiritual growth as I suffered for the sake of the Gospel. No way could my Creator be calling me to do what I love, could He?

Do you have a job, a career, or a calling? Do you see your work as “spiritual”? How is God involved in what you do?

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2 thoughts on “What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. Hi Mom! But you missed the end… where you’re doing what you love with photography and teaching about gardens. 😀 God sure used you, and your gifts! I wonder what I’m going to do when I grow up?

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