“I could be the next C.S. Lewis,” I brazenly told my college professor.
At the time, I was as unique as any one of my classmates, thinking the world was at my fingertips, primed to be shaped for the better by my thoughts. Lewis, as adept at philosophy as he was at fiction, was the archetype of the career I wanted to pursue: writing.
But my mistake was forgetting that God had given me the ability to write, that a dream career is a relatively novel and entitled concept in humanity, and that fame, even if I’m pointing people to the Bible, doesn’t necessarily bring God the glory in the way he predestined.
We Can’t Do Anything on Our Own
It takes a village. We stand on the shoulders of giants. There is nothing new under the sun. “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!”
These common phrases are humbling in that they remind us we are not as independent as we would like to think. Parents and other authority figures teach us what we need to know to get us where we need to go. Peers help us develop socially, often becoming our significant other and close friends. We need others to do anything and everything.
Only God has ever created something from nothing. The off-the-grid farmer relies on God’s guiding the seasons. Any innovative technology consists of natural elements, at its base. The runaway relies on the generosity of rescue missions and the unwitting shelter of bus stops and park benches. The self-made man may begin with his own work ethic (which was probably imbued in him by caring parents), but he eventually delegates tasks. It is ultimately God the creator who has set in motion all things; only he makes anything possible.
Recently, two songs have reminded me of the awesomeness of God and the insignificance of myself. “Where Were You?” by Ghost Ship and “El Shaddai” by Dogwood & Holly make melody of God’s admonition for Job at the end of the story of this suffering servant.
In Job 38-42, God posits a series of hypotheticals that lead Job to recognize his place at the mercy of God. Though these chapters are out of a place of real suffering, God’s sovereignty relates to my hoped-for writing success. I am reminded that God didn’t have to put me in a place with excellent school teachers, with any innate talent I might have, or with the desire to talk deeply to strangers.
Even with these gifts, I don’t always get to do what I want with them—because my life is not about me.
Careers are a 20th-Century Invention
This section’s heading comes from a quote by Christopher McCandless, a young man plagued with cynicism toward American society whose story was penned in the book Into the Wild (later adapted to film). Sharing McCandless’ generalization, the notion of a dream job is recent to the human experience. Jobs were a necessity as a means of survival and the urgency of needing to get paid wasn’t aided by work’s curse at the Fall (Gen 3:17-19).
Perhaps I’m looking at the past with modern eyes. Maybe antediluvian and antebellum children did aspire to be farmers and blacksmiths. Still, I think there’s a difference between the hopes we instill now, that “you can be anything you want to be,” and the lots that were cast for centuries before.
Striving toward a job where “you don’t have to work a day in your life,” comes from a humanistic twist on the curse of work. All work is a bear, so you might as well enjoy it. To think that we should or will one day receive a pay stub from today’s daydreams is to replace our life’s purpose of pleasing God (2 Cor 5:9) with our job title.
An Audience of One
Appropriating McCandless’ cynicism, I’ve become discouraged as I’ve read testimonies of the rejection-riddled odyssey it is to get published, even when you offer your work for free. The easy part in writing is the writing.
Literary podcasts I’ve heard amount to little more than motivational speeches encouraging you to “get your story on the page.” Yet, each writer wants to make it big, to be heard, and to make a living of their love.
In a particular bout of despondency, I spent one morning praying to God and thinking about my goals as a writer. God gave me a question: Can I be content in the life I’ve been given?
It may be that what I write is read by little more than friends and family. God asked me, “Can you be okay with this?” I’m starting to believe my answer is honestly, “Yes.” This has not been a morose surrender of goals. Rather, it’s a realignment of the purpose I see for my life.
If I’m not prayerful about my purpose, my desire to become immortalized on the pages of the internet or on the shelves of a library can mirror the intention of the people of Babel. Like them, I want to make a name for myself. God obliterated their brazen effort.
Friends of ours recently bought a house specifically because they could not serve people well in their small apartment. Imagine that! They weren’t keeping up with the Joneses; they sincerely knew they couldn’t love God and others as well as he’d commanded them in their cramped space. This example has corrected me repeatedly as I’ve thought about the ways my resources, my free time, my writing ability are given to me only to glorify God.