My Christian college took the idea of the secular “American Dream” and Christian-ized it to be preached in a godly way to the Christian university population. What was the American Dream became this Christian perspective: if you play to the strengths God has given you, you will be able to “Build a life that matters.” What I took away from that was that, so long as I was playing to my God-given strengths, I would have no problem finding a fulfilling job where I truly made a difference. And, of course, if I was appreciated at work, I should be able to make enough money to live independently. Along with that, I’d come home from work confident and unstressed–ready to use my strengths outside of work to build fulfilling relationships and encourage my friends, spreading joy wherever I went.
Yeah, yeah, I know the American Dream isn’t real, but this sounded like it could merge with my faith. It also sounded pretty darn nice: use the gifts God’s given you and, in return, he will provide fulfilling satisfaction. Why not? I mean, God’s totally in the center of that equation, so it’s fair to believe he’ll honor that system, right? He wants to be in the center of our lives.
God created me to accomplish things beyond what I could imagine. He has great plans for me. Ephesians 2:10 has been quoted to me countless times: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He set up my fulfilling life before I was even born! There is good stuff out there for me!
When I graduated college, I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue, but seeing as how I had wrapped school up earlier than most and I finished valedictorian, I clearly had God’s blessing. So I was off to find and then offer the world my amazing, God-given strengths!
So far I’m finding my story far less picturesque than I was led to believe it could be. I did find a job and moved away independently. It was even at a Christian camp, so that seemed a god place to grow God-given strengths.
Every so often my college will ask for updates with questions like, “Have you gotten married? Started a new job? Achieved a new goal? Share your updates with us!” I delete the email in shame thinking about what “pride” I’d bring my school if I told them, “No, I actually got fired from my job and then started a job a high schooler could do. My boyfriend and I ran into a hard patch and I don’t even have goals to aim for!”
What about God carrying through on my “building a life that matters”? What about my strengths being appreciated and changing the world? What about my confidence soaring?
And most days, carrying on my daily life, working my high school job from my parents house, I think about how I let myself down. How I let my school down. And, evidently, how I let God down. I was told God has great plans for me. Clearly, I’ve failed something, and missed out on those. I assure you, right now, I am not living out any great plans.
Yesterday I read the following: “But Jesus did live with family, and, as Betsy Ricucci points out, that’s all he had done at the time the Father proclaimed, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). ‘What had Jesus done to receive such praise? Nothing but live in his own home, honoring his parents and serving his father’s carpentry business. Apparently that was enough to please God.'”
And Luke shared with me the other day from a book he was reading. He said you can live your life trying to please God, or you can live your life trying to trust God. When you try to please God through your works, you are not accepting the fact that he is pleased with you completely regardless of your actions. However, when you live your life with the goal of learning to trust God (even in the simple things), you are doing what he created you for: you are pleasing him. Your existence is bringing him joy.
I don’t know how to accept this truth. Too long I have been caught up in the “God has great plans for you. The moment you are living in his great plans, both you and God will find the ultimate fulfillment.” But the truth that Betsy Ricucci and Luke’s book point out is that, even in my parents house, even without career goals, even having been fired, even when Luke and I hurt each other through our imperfections, even in the uncertain mundane, every moment of my existence is pleasing to God.
Oh Father, help my unbelief!