I am making my way through a list of practical steps my pastor gave the congregation to help us go deeper in our faith. The tenth step is “focus on who you are (and can become) rather than on what you should do.” I interpret “what you should do” as God’s purpose or calling for your life. I have learned that it is easy for me to get ahead of myself, especially when I spend too much time thinking about what I should do in the future instead of focusing on the here and now.
What should you do?
A few years ago, I hoped that God would call me to do something radically different with my life. I had been an accountant for about 25 years and was unhappy in my job. I started blogging, which opened up a side of me that I had always suppressed. I started praying that God would lead me where he wanted me to be, hoping he would lead me to an opportunity that involved writing. When I heard nothing, I thought maybe I wasn’t listening closely enough or praying hard enough. Or, I thought, maybe God is too disappointed in me to call me to do anything for him.
One day as I prayed, it occurred to me that maybe where God wanted me to be is right where I am – seeking him, growing in my faith and learning to be more like Jesus.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13).
Hannah Brencher wrote about the fear of missing God’s calling, Don’t miss the call. She was driven crazy by all the talk about God’s calling. Many of us think that if we mess up, our calling is not going to happen. But messing up is exactly what Jonah did when God told him to go to Nineveh to preach and he instead ran away. Even though Jonah resisted, God still used him for his purpose.
As I once did, we may want God to hurry up and reveal his “calling” to us. Our calling is not some far off goal that we will reach if we just pray hard enough. As Hannah wrote, “You are in the middle of your calling right now.” No matter what you’re going through right now, you’re in the right place.
Wendy van Eyck wrote about why you don’t need to stress about finding your calling. She also learned some valuable truths from the story of Jonah. God will make the right things happen at the right time. God will not give up on us. “God is consistently, and lovingly, guiding us to the exact place he needs us to be right now.”
God works in us to fulfill his purpose, despite our ignorance or our inertia and even our resistance.
Focus on who you are
Our self-identity is based in part on our relationships with other people. I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend and coworker. Many of the relationships come with conditions. But I don’t always meet everyone’s expectations; I mess up and let people down.
My sense of self also comes from what I do to make a living and how I choose to spend my spare time. My talents and interests give my life meaning and purpose, a reason for getting out of bed every day. If I do something well and people admire or appreciate my efforts, I feel competent and valued.
Because Jesus loves me, my identity is not dependent on what other people think of me or on what I do. He loves me because he loves me, not because of who I am or for what I do. Jesus chose me to be a part of his family, just as he chose his disciples. He loved his imperfect disciples and he loves me.
I am known by God and loved unconditionally. God knows every corner of my heart, the good and the bad. He created my inmost being. He knows what I will do before I do it. As flawed as I am, because he loves me, I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Focus on who you can become
God is the potter and I am the clay. When I submit my life to his hands, he is free to shape me into something useful and beautiful. He won’t lead me unless I give him the reins. I have to let him discipline me when I do wrong, just as a father disciplines his child. When I stumble and fall, he picks me up and puts me on the right path.
Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).
When Jesus saved me, I took off my old self and put on my new self. The new me is still flawed but it is continuously being renewed by his wisdom.
Jesus showed me who I can become. Merciful. Compassionate. Pure in heart. Forgiving. Humble. A peacemaker. A person who is eager to do what is good.
Focus on the inner work
When we become preoccupied with what we think we should be doing with our lives or where we want to be in the future, we may not appreciate the work God is doing here and now in our hearts. God doesn’t care whether you’re a waiter or an accountant or homemaker or any other kind of doer, as long as you do whatever you do with a heart that seeks him.
Instead of focusing on what you should be doing with your life, fix your eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Make every effort to live in peace with others. See to it that no one misses out on the grace of God.
Reading List: Genesis 17:5-7 Deuteronomy 7:6-8 Psalm 40:1-3; 139:1-18 Jeremiah 18:1-6 1 Corinthians 15:56-58 Colossians 3:10 Philippians 2:13 Titus 2:14 Hebrews 12:1-29 1 John 3:9; 4:19; 5:18