What did you want to be when you grew up? The first thing I can remember wanting to be is a hairstylist. That was in first grade and I remember drawing a picture of myself with scissors in my hand. Apparently, I wasn’t too invested in that idea because I’ve jumped from hairdresser to oceanographer to journalist to a million other things since then. I used to spend a lot of time trying to figure out my purpose and what it was God wanted me to do. It can be agonizing when it seems like everyone but you has it figured out. The best advice I can give for this scenario is the same advice I was given: Start with your childhood. Look back and see if you can find any common threads between things you enjoyed doing back then, and what you still enjoy doing now.
When I was younger I was always writing or creating some piece of art. I started journaling and writing poems when I was still in elementary school, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on some craft or another. Unfortunately, as I grew up, I found I wasn’t having as much academic luck with art as I expected. Through my middle and high school years, I started to believe I wasn’t much of an artist at all. By the time college came around, I had begun fiddling around with HTML coding and websites and decided I’d major in computer information systems. That lasted a whole semester or two before I realized I was bored by it (and also failing my coding assignments). So what did I do? I returned to my first love. I became an art/graphic design major and found I was much happier in that setting, even if I wasn’t always getting the best grades. Actually, I had professors during that time telling me what a good writer I was. So, art and writing continued to be dominant themes even though I wasn’t sure what to do with either of them.
We are given more opportunities to use our talents when God sees evidence of our faithful stewardship.
I remember the first time I came across a passage of scripture that made me think, wow, maybe God does have a purpose for artists. I was reading Exodus 35 and God was giving instructions for how to build the temple. In verses 30-35 Moses explained that Bezalel had been filled “with the Spirit of God…to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” He specifically commissioned people for this work, and He expected it to be carried out. Unfortunately, over the years I let that realization be drowned out by more “reasonable” expectations of what it looks like to be a working adult. It took me quite a while to believe I could possibly do this creative thing for a living—and to realize we are given more opportunities to use our talents when God sees evidence of our faithful stewardship.
Jesus often used parables, or stories, to drive home a point He was trying to make. One of the most well-known, the parable of talents, shows up in Matthew 25:14-30. In these verses Jesus shares a story of a wealthy man who went on a journey and entrusted his riches to his servants in the meantime. He gave different amounts of money to each person in accordance with their ability to multiply what he gave them. Ultimately, the servants who did what was expected of them were given even more responsibility, while the servant who did nothing had all opportunity stripped away from him and given to others. God will give us every opportunity to do what He asks us to do, but if we pass on the opportunity, He’ll give it to someone else. One way or another, His mission will be accomplished.
I think one of the reasons we don’t ask God what He wants from us or our lives is because we’re afraid of what He might say. As silly as it may sound, I was always terrified He’d send me to be a missionary in Africa. What I’ve learned since then is God is a kind and loving Father who created me with specific giftings on purpose because He wants me to use them. We can go to God not expecting the worst or the scariest option, but expecting He wants to use the personality He’s given us. I heard author Michael Todd put it this way: “God doesn’t bless who you pretend to be, He blesses who you really are.”
So what do you want to be when you grow up? I’ve determined I want to be a person who does her best to cultivate what she’s been given—no matter how little I feel I may be working with. At the end of my life, my aim is to be able to stand before God and echo the words of Jesus, “I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” Amen.