There was this music video that came out not so long ago that fascinated me. Willow Smith, before this 2012 music video, was known for two things: being Will Smith’s daughter and whipping her hair back and forth. I find it fascinating that in her new video she rebels against both of these things; first by casting off her father’s name with her proclamations “I am me” and “your validation is just not that important to me” and secondly by shaving her head to separate herself from the image of her most popular pre-teen music video. Its a funny circle, the things that once define you entirely, make you successful, and even draw others to you, you one day reject for fear of being typecast as the very thing you once fully embraced.
This is the battle that we all must face as we try to discover who we are and what we are supposed to do, and, quite obviously, it’s not an easy journey to traverse. We are told by almost every voice in our culture that the best we can do, our ultimate goal, is to pursue our passions. And passion is good, in fact, I would count it as an essential human characteristic. The major problem with passion, though, is that it isn’t sustainable. Time brings change for everyone, and whatever your passions are focused on now, chances are it will change in time. Either we change, or our circumstances do. We see this all the time in hollywood (the place we, if we are being honest, most often look to for personal direction). Willow Smith decides she doesn’t want to care for the things she once did, while Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Vick all follow their vision for their lives and the world watches as their bad decisions catch up with them. And while all of the people mentioned here have continued to do what they love despite these “hiccups” in their journey, seeing the reality that passion never sticks should change the way we think about finding our calling.
When you pursue scripture on this question, you find, to be honest, a whole lot of confusion. There is some clarity as to ‘how’ to follow your calling (i.e. utilizing characteristics like righteousness, wisdom, mercy, love etc.), but very little as to ‘what’ your calling should be. Instead, when I look at the lives of characters in the Biblical narrative, what I find is a whole bunch of people who have no idea what they are doing. When you look at the whole of the Journeys of characters like Moses, David, Paul, and Peter you find that the emphasis seems not be on their passions or their characteristics (those these things are praised, but they are far from the focal point). Instead, the stories almost exclusively focus on their journey. The often painstaking situations and tasks that they are charged with do the long and very un-glorious work of shaping them into the leaders we know. Moses was a 40 year old wanderer in the desert, David a kid with a lot of gumption, Paul a persecutor of the church, and Peter a doubter and inconsistent leader. Time shaped each of them to become people we look to up to. Journey is the essential characteristic that led to the maturity of these men in scripture, and it will be the same for each of us.
When it comes to pursuing what you love to do, the biggest obstacle between you and the realization of your dreams is consistency. Because passion is fleeting, and the journey is hard, there are, sadly, many who quit along the process of realizing their passions and goals. I think this happens because we lie to ourselves. We hear stories of overnight success (something we call “the American Dream”) and something inside of tells us that all of our dreams can be realized in a very short amount of time. The truth is, no matter how many youtube videos there are of you with a hundred thousand views, your efforts to become a famous singer may not be realized as quickly as it was for Justin Bieber or One Direction. And if it isn’t going to happen fast for the majority of us, what should we do to make sure we stick it through? I think that the only word we have for something this important is ‘purpose’. Purpose is the one thing in our world that has the power to survive through anything. Knowing why you are here, why you exist, what you were made for, and who you were made for are all far more foundational questions, then “what am I supposed to do?”
So this is my question for you today, are you living with purpose? Do you have all the gears in place to allow God to begin working in you? Do you have what you need to follow what you love to do through the ins and outs of life? Because the only way to find your calling, is to establish a foundation of purpose, take the humble road on the journey of life seeking maturity, and then follow what you love to a place of true meaning. Thats how most of those who have come before have done it, and even the Willow Smith’s, Bieber’s, and One Direction’s of this world are going to have to reconcile with this process before their days are done here. Because even if you can find success in a moment, finding you calling never happens overnight.
Image used under the creative commons license courtesy of Lara Cores: http://bit.ly/TZD5Xh