A letter to the graduating class of 2012
Dear Little Brother,
You’re officially making me feel old. You’re not a high school kid anymore. You’re a young man with a wide-open future to claim.
I remember facing that same future and standing on that same brink. At your back lies the comfortable, known realm of childhood. Before you stretches the land of nothing and everything – where nothing is certain, and everything is possible. The question looms like a thick cloud over your head: “What am I going to do with my life?” Not only is it the heart cry of every kid on the brink, but it also plagues the minds of countless adults.
I gave up asking this question a long time ago, though. While it’s a legitimate question, the answer is overrated. First, I’m not convinced any of us will ever truly answer this question in this life. Secondly, I’m not sure that, even if we could, the answer would afford all the peace and direction we crave. I know the question has practical purposes and even a good motive. A lot of Christians ask the question because they are genuinely trying to choose a life and goals that will glorify God. But when they ask the question, “What am I going to do with my life?” they are not looking at the same thing God is looking at.
When God commanded Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel, the prophet was looking for the tallest, buffest, most distinguished and successful man. But God chose David, the little brother who tended sheep, to rule His people. As David grew into “a man after God’s own heart,” we can see why. The Lord wasn’t looking for someone with a three-step plan for becoming a successful king in less than five years. God already had a plan. He was looking for a man with a heart willing to submit to His plan.
In a world where we don’t know the future and where God has a plan, “What am I going to do with my life?” may not be the most important question to ask. God is not as concerned with what we do for a living as He is with who we are in Him. So a better question to ask might be, “Who am I going to be?”
This is not just a question we ask when we graduate high school or reach some other milestone. This is a question we will have to ask ourselves every single day with every decision we make. Every situation we find ourselves in. Every path we choose. Sunday through Saturday. God is not looking at our diplomas or paychecks. He is looking at who we are, and who we are is partly defined by our daily choices to do right or wrong.
Joseph of the Bible was a man defined by his constant choice to act with integrity in every situation. He was probably about the age of a high school graduate when God’s plan for him began to unfold with his brothers trying to murder him. By the end of his life, he was a respected ruler over a world power. If you had asked him at the age of seventeen what he wanted to do with his life, he probably wouldn’t have included being thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, accused of adultery, or imprisoned. But although those things weren’t among his life goals, he chose to be the right man in the face of them. He did the right thing no matter how others betrayed, accused, or used him. Over and over again we read, “God was with him, and he prospered.” As a slave he became the steward of a government official. As a prison inmate he became the assistant warden. Eventually God led him into a place of power, second only to Pharaoh of Egypt. Because he had chosen to be the right man through all the little decisions and circumstances leading up to this point, he was the right man when God made him ruler of a nation.
In Joseph we see an example of a man who chose the kind of person he would be, and God gave Him something to do with his life. This pattern is prevalent throughout scripture: Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, and the list goes on. These faithful heroes show us something significant when it comes to life direction. God doesn’t look for the person with a detailed plan for life from grade school to retirement. He looks for the man with a heart like His own, a heart ready to submit to His perfect plan. The Lord isn’t impressed with college degrees, prestigious careers, or 401K’s. He is Father to the people after His own heart, and these are the people to whom He will give great deeds.
So pursue your interests. Chase the future confidently and deliberately. Get your degree, start your new job, save for retirement. But before you do anything, decide what kind of man you will be, and be that man in the pits and prisons of your life so that someday God can use you in the palaces of the world.
Your Big Sister
- Grace D Williamson