What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you remember that question? Perhaps you’re still waiting to grow up and figure out the answer to that question. Or maybe you’ve grown up and you’re living your dream. But more likely, if you’re like me and many others, when you evaluate who you are today, reality hasn’t fully matched your dreams. Our answers at six, twelve, eighteen, and even twenty-five and beyond rarely take into account all that life will bring our way.
Unfortunately, most of our answers to the “what do you want to be” question rarely answer the question that ought to be asked. We hear the question and our answers invariably sound like we heard, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I don’t know what your answers have been over the years, but perhaps some of these sound familiar: I want to be a policeman, a fireman, a nurse, a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a builder, an astronaut, a mechanic, a business owner, or a whatever else we hope to do. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone answer the question of what they want to be by saying they want to be kind, loving, compassionate, honest, forgiving, joyful, content, fair, generous, peaceful, patient, gentle, or any other attribute that expresses the presence of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.
Yes, what we do can be a gift from God, who has in advance created good works for us to do. But if our identity is fully formed around what we do, what happens when we can no longer do? What happens if we can never do what we’ve dreamed of? To find joy with who we are, we must move beyond what we can do and develop the deeper traits of who we can be. One of the most difficult things in life, at least for me, is to find joy in being when the world says my doing doesn’t measure up. Sometimes I think we, as a society, have worked so hard for equality that we’ve failed to see the dark side that often lingers with it. Treating people without partiality is a good thing — and a God-commanded thing. But that is not the same as believing everyone should fit into the same mold in order to be equal. Yes, we should constantly strive to do all the good that we can do and work toward giving everyone the opportunity to do all the good that they can do. But we should work harder at being content with who we are and helping others find joy in who they are regardless of what any of us are able to do.
So, how do you and I find joy in who we are? We begin by believing what God says about who we are. When we wrap our identity around being God’s child and allow our sense of value to come from His love for us, what we can and cannot do becomes less important compared to who we are and and who we can be in Christ. Remember that list from paragraph two of what many people want to be (do) when they grow up? My daughter, who is now twenty-seven years old, will never be any of those things — at least not in an official way, short of a miraculous intervention from God. Yes, she teaches me more than just about anyone else, so you could say she’s a teacher — but not in the sense it is used when answering the question about growing up. Yet she has great joy in who she is, and I have great joy in who she is, because her life is wrapped around her identity in Christ and is focused on being the things that we all ought to strive for — the things I mentioned earlier that I said I never hear in response to the question of what we want to be.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Susan. I want to be one that finds joy in who I am — a joy that the world can’t take away, a joy that is not dependent on my abilities measuring up to the expectations of others but is solely dependent on being who God created me to be. I pray that God fills you with His Spirit so that you overflow with joy simply because you are His.