“Would it have made a difference if your high school guidance counsellor had asked you what kind of person you want to be when you grow up, rather than what job you’d like to get?”
A man at the table next to us broached this subject to my friends and I during lunch at a coffee shop, after overhearing that we were university students. His question was followed by a long silence as the wheels in our heads turned. My own answer surprised me, “Yes. Incredibly.”
I used to believe that making it in life was fulfilling the American Dream. Work hard and you will graduate from university, start a career, get promoted, and become wealthy. You will live a comfortable life in a large house with a beautiful family and several cars. Then you will live happily ever after because you have finally succeeded in life.
But is this all there is to life? What if the person at the coffee shop is right? What if the important question is not what we do, but who we are?
Now that I’ve had time to think about it, there must be more to life than good grades, careers, and possessions. There must be. If there isn’t, what would that make of all the people who cannot achieve the American Dream? The truth is, it isn’t easy to “make it in life.” Opportunities in life are unequal to different individuals – from the poor single mother to the haute couture model.
Could it be that we are not defined by our careers, education, or even our upbringing?
With our instability and limited knowledge, can we count on ourselves to know who we are? I had been running after this dream of abundance, but felt incredibly lost and empty at the same time. If I haven’t achieved my goal to become someone yet, who am I in the present? Fulfillment cannot be guaranteed just by having the right ingredients for worldly success, because not everything goes as planned.
If I cannot build my own stable identity, then it must come from someone else who is not susceptible to failure, lack, or incompleteness. I have discovered and experienced that there is only one being that fits that description – God. He is the One who made us and wired us uniquely, the One who loves us despite an ever-changing world, and the One who shows us great love and forgiveness despite our mess-ups and failures (1 John 4:9-10). I have found that life with God is a journey that shows me who I truly am
Perhaps now you’re asking, “How can I know God is like this?” How I’ve come to know God like this is through Jesus, his son, whom God sent to the world in human form to connect us to himself (John 3:16). Jesus also came to rescue us from our destructive attempts to find our identity apart from him.
One sure thing I learned from Jesus is that God created us and he never makes mistakes. He has wired each of us for a unique purpose, and as I get to know more of who I was made to be and what I was born to do, I can live life passionately. I now know not to let my career decide my identity and purpose, but to let my identity and purpose decide my career.
Maybe you have also been shaken by the question from that man at the coffee shop. Perhaps you feel as if you have gone in the wrong direction in life. But with God, hope is never lost, and nothing is irredeemable.
What kind of person are you trying to be?