What Will You Be?

by - January 30, 2019

A friend was standing on the front stoop after picking up her son, and she thanked me for sharing my mid-life crisis post. She had been having similar conversations with friends, one of whom observed the ridiculousness of her own crisis when her high school junior was on the precipice life-defining choices. It struck me that I've never felt like I had arrived or become what I owed it to the world, my parents, God or the foundations that funded my education to become. At times I fear I've missed the window of becoming. But then I look at my children and remember I love them as they are, having proved nothing, having checked off no boxes and having only earned elementary school awards. I've told them over and over that I'm proud of them for who they are and love them because they are mine and that nothing they can do or not do will change that love. This is the message I want them to know in their hearts, so as their parent I must keep in check the other messages I send them about becoming.

What if instead of asking our children what they want to be when they grow up, we asked them how they will afford their habits, hobbies, humans and happiness as adults? We currently emphasize work rather than "living" as central to our identity. It's no wonder so many of us are driven to crisis when we feel a disconnection from career. I would argue that our children already are. It's not that they aren't becoming, certainly we will all continue to become until the day we are no more, but still becoming should not diminish our children's current status as already being. I've caught myself on occasion about to ask my sons what they want to be when they grow up, but the absurdity stops me. Scooby will be Scooby. Wookie will be Wookie. Or course. Why would they need to be anything else? 

If we believe that we must become something other than that which we are, or that we aren't complete until we have reached a goal defined by academic or societal institutions, we will reach the age of 35 (God-willing) and realize that we aren't. Or that we are but no longer want to be that which we are. Or worse, we look at a fellow human on the street corner and deem them "not". The writer in Psalm 139:14 proclaims, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." What could I add or achieve to complete what has already been declared "good"?  What boxes do I need to check off to make God's work a little better? This is my essence, my core. It already is. From here on, what I do is merely an expression of who I am.

In asking the long-range goals of my children, I don't want to overlook the small, daily choices that reveal who they already are and the character they are developing. Having a lofty career goal makes for good conversation but doesn't always make for a good humans. A career goal can guide them on the large forks in the journey, but it doesn't dictate how they hike the trail or respect their fellow travelers. What I find myself asking them more often is, "What kind of character do you want to have? Do you want to be known for your kindness? Then be kind now. Do you want people to trust you? Then be trustworthy now. The choices you make today, towards each other, are the steps towards the kind of person you hope to be." I also ask them what brings them joy. And yes, I ask them what they could picture themselves doing for a job some day.

Going back to that first question, when we reframe career as a means to support their living, we give them the opportunity to evaluate themselves. What do they love? What types of experiences do they long to have? What kind of relationships do they hope to develop and sustain? What are their gifts and talents? We encourage them to consider how will they support these dreams, which likely are an expression on who they are -- not how will they transform themselves into people of value.

More important than asking them these questions is living out the answers. I must be kind. I must be trustworthy. I have to believe that in God I already am complete. I have to know that I am lacking no good thing. If I live in the anxiety that I am not enough or that I have something to prove, how can they believe that they are enough and have nothing to prove? Am I loved less by God than they are loved by me? Absolutely not. That love should propel me out of the inner workings of my self-scrutiny to see where I can build into others. Maybe a guiding question should instead be, “How are you specially wired to bring goodness, helping hands, excellence, beauty, truth, protection, adventure, justice or peace to other people’s lives?"

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  1. And now I have a Paige Puckett quote on my fridge. "How are you specially wired to bring goodness, helping hands,excellence,beauty,truth,protection,adventure,justice or peace to other people's lives?"
    Thank you Paige Puckett. It seems you are doing your part and eloquently.



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