The problem with ‘destiny’

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In the past few years I’ve been listening to people in certain Christian circles speak about ‘destiny’.

“God has a big destiny for you”….. “God has ‘big plans‘ for you.”

Destiny seems like an impressive word when it’s coming from someone who has a microphone, a platform, several published books, a massive social media following, Instagram accounts with a million followers, and “Live” video posts on Facebook.

Yup.

Definition: the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.

Pretty vague, really. Pretty non-descript. Doesn’t say anything about ‘big’ or ‘flashy’ events. To be fair to the people using this word, they may just be talking within the confines of the basic definition seen above. But in my own mind, I confused their message about ‘destiny’. When I heard people proclaiming “destiny” over my life, or other’s lives, I saw a big deal. I saw an amazing ministry, I saw a shiny vision, and an incredible mission. Big. Grandiose. Wondrous. Spectacular!  The type of things that others think inspirational, at the very least.

In the past few years I’ve been reading blogs written by incredible women who not only blog, but publish books, do speaking tours, host small groups, lead international ministries… and still have time to love on their children and spouses.

How the heck….?

Sometimes it’s hard to just get dinner on the table in time for the hungry masses to descend!

I kept wracking my brain about how these women manage a household and their family relationships while writing books, flying across the country (or heck, even the world) to speak for days at a time, stay involved in their church community, host birthday parties, blog and still manage to have coffee dates with their besties (no, really, they do… it’s in their books)… and get dinner on the table in time.

I began thinking that there was something the matter with me that I was not doing the same thing. Why did I not know what my ‘big destiny’ was? Why did I not have more of a sense of where God wants me to be or to what people group He wants me to ‘minister’?

I have struggled with this idea of ‘calling’, of ‘destiny’ my whole entire life. I never seemed to have a sense of what I was ‘supposed to be doing’ for the Lord. I have waffled in indecision, wrestled in prayer and over conversations with friends. Other people meanwhile, felt ‘called’ to something – to a ministry, to a position, to a career. Me? I’ve read books. I’ve journalled pages and pages of questions. I’ve talked and talked. I’ve asked, “How do I know if God wants me to do this… or that??” How do people know?

And then there was the time when I felt like I had finally figured out my calling… and then a few years later… I hit a brick wall.

And I had to give up that plan. Ever since then, I have been hesitant to say “I feel called to this…” or “I feel that God might be calling me to that…” I question and wrestle and sing and pray and struggle through decisions. I read books. I answer the questions. I talk to more friends. It’s exhausting to go around in circles the way that I do, and frustrating to not seem to have answers. Clear answers. Distinct answers. The kind of answers that people got in the Bible where an angel visits, or they have a dream or a vision. “Ta da!! God has chosen you to do… x, y or z.” It was clear. They may have been scared, but their mission was clear.

Just recently I picked up a book called “Be You. Do Good.” A book about calling. I was intrigued and began reading it.

The author, Johnathon David Golden says that we tend to believe myths about “calling”. Myth #3 spoke to me about what I had been musing about above – the idea that a calling on our lives must be big and amazing.

We live in a time where success stories and sensational narratives are splashed all over the internet. A Christian conference draws tens of thousands or a group of middle school students raises a large sum of cash to fight slavery. As a result, we’ve come to believe that this must be what following our calling should look like, that we must have some grand, “God-sized” plan. So we start to dream up the biggest, sexiest, flashiest, most dramatic goal we can. This myth has been popularized by wide-eyed Western Christians who love celebrity and success. But most people don’t have monumental callings. In fact, they’re an idea that most Christians throughout history have been baffled by. Mother Teresa’s calling may have opened some big doors for her, but the majority of her life was spent doing things that would make most of our stomachs turn. It wasn’t sexy or flashy. And of course, most of the Mother Teresas in this life are never recognized or celebrated on a large stage or in front of network news camers. We must remember that faithfulness is often effective but not usually dramatic.

Maybe I’m not called to build my ‘followers’, build my image, build my ‘brand’, build my ‘likes’…

Maybe I’m simply called right now to build hope into my kids, build encouragement into my friends, build love into my household by providing nutritious food,  home baked granola, and a listening ear. And maybe that’s enough.

 “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future…”   Jer.29:11

In a related vein, this post really resonated with my heart this past week: What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?

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2 responses »

  1. Wisława Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012), a Polish poet and nobel peace prize winner, wrote a poem, Utopia.

    UTOPIA

    Island where all becomes clear.

    Solid ground beneath your feet.

    The only roads are those that offer access.

    Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

    The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
    with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

    The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
    sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

    The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
    the Valley of Obviously.

    If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

    Echoes stir unsummoned
    and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

    On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

    On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
    Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

    Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
    Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

    For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
    and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
    turn without exception to the sea.

    As if all you can do here is leave
    and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

    Into unfathomable life.

    ~~~
    I see you in this poem, and me, too. For all its charms, certainty and knowing seems uninhabited…and the faint footprints on that Island of Certainty (Utopia) turn without exception to the sea…as if all you do with certainty and knowing is leave…and plunge into the depths of unfathomable life.

    Un-Knowing, or Not Knowing can also be sensationalized…but I keep coming back to this sea and it is far more appealing to me than knowing all…and I much prefer the unanswered questions about God and the universe than the scriptural ones that try to define things…there is so much unknown about God and it is there, in God, that I find the most beauty, awe and inspiration.

    In the specifics of my life, though…there I questions and happenings I’d like to have answers to : ) or at least a conversation.

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