I remember the first week of my freshman year of high school, I was sitting in English class, and we were given a classic freshman assignment. The assignment was to set 10 goals for ourselves for the next four years while we would be in high school. I’ve never been much of a goal-setter, but I knew what to put down on the paper. So I wrote down what I viewed as the normal “successful” high school stuff. I don’t remember all 10 goals, but I remember two of them: 1. Graduate in the top 10 percent of my class. And 2. Become a starter on the football team. I accomplished neither of these goals for myself. For different reasons, of course. There were factors in those that were out of my control like other people competing and natural ability limitations, but also, looking back, I am not sure those were really things that I cared much about, at least, I didn’t show it by my effort level.
When someone is growing up in school, the question adults often think to ask is “What do you want to do when you grow up?” The answers that these awkward-feeling adults are expecting is a type of profession like doctor, firefighter, or teacher. And so, depending on the kid, they either change their mind on this a few times, or some know from a very young age what it is that they want to do. This changed a lot for me over the years. Obviously I wanted to be a professional athlete for a while. Get to play sports for a job? Make tons of money? Be famous? Sign me up! I pretty quickly realized that perhaps for me, that wasn’t going to be a career option. So I think then I said that I wanted to be a lawyer. I did have quite the argumentative gift (My mom always says that if she said the sky is blue, I would say its not. That’s not too inaccurate… Sorry, Mom). Then I realized that I thought talking to people was an ok thing that I could do, so when asked, I would always tell people I wanted to be a counselor. Then very early on in college, I found that I wanted to do youth ministry. And guess what!? That’s what I do.
When talking to a youth minister, some people may still ask the question, “So what do you want to do, really?” At this point, I can honestly say youth ministry.
So I’m 23, and I think I have a ready answer for the “what do you want to do?” question.
But now, I, and I suppose every other person, have to ask the question: “What kind of person do I want to be?” This seems to me to be a far more important question. But this is a question that is much harder to break down into a list of goals, if you like making lists of that sort of thing.
See, we live in a world that is all about climbing up the next wrung of the ladder. Our world cares about graduating at the top of your class from business school, our world cares about getting that next promotion, and our world cares about being able to afford living in the comfortable neighborhood with the comfortable car. From a young age, we’re conditioned to want to associate with a certain crowd. “Oh, you don’t want to send your child to that school.” We’re conditioned to not accept finishing in any place other than first. I remember three times in elementary school that I was devastated because I didn’t win (2 spelling bees and a science fair). We have accepted these expectations placed on us by voices other than the voice of God. And some of these voices have even been backed up by scriptural references! How many times have you heard Colossians 3:23 (context: Paul’s teaching for 1st century slaves) and thought that meant you need to work harder to achieve earthly success?
“Woah! Slow your role, Michael. The Bible is God’s Word. Are you saying that we shouldn’t try hard at things!?”
No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that we should not pick and choose Scripture to enforce our desire to succeed in the eyes of other people. Definitely work diligently in your jobs and in your relationships!
Ok, ok, so here’s my point: We spend way to much time trying to answer the question, “What do we want to do?” And we do not spend enough time trying to answer the question, “What kind of person do we want to be?”
I find myself in a season of life where that second question keeps coming up. So I’m going to make a new list. This time I’m going to pick 10 qualities that I want to aspire to be. Maybe if you’re reading this, it will give you some ideas about the kind of person that you want to be.
*DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ALREADY THESE THINGS ALL THE TIME BECAUSE IF I WAS, THIS WOULD BE A POINTLESS LIST.
I want to be someone who:
- always tells the truth.
- cares for the marginalized.
- is hospitable toward the outsider.
- seeks to gain understanding.
- is willing to be vulnerable.
- seeks wise counsel.
- responds kindly.
- leads by example.
- radiates patience.
- loves deeply.