“Let us not be women on our deathbeds who look back on our lives and think, ‘I spent every season of my life just trying to arrive in the next one.’”Emily Wilson
New years have a tendency to stir in my heart a new uncertainty about the place I find myself. Or maybe the uncertainty is not what is new, but rather a new urgency to confront the parts of my life I am most unsure about. With every passing year, I ask myself a simple question that lacks a simple answer:
“Am I where I am supposed to be?”
I have asked myself this question countless times across countless aspects of my life. Am I where I am supposed to be professionally? Am I where I am supposed to be in regards to my relationship status? Am I where I am supposed to be in terms of the ministries I am pouring into? The city I am living in? The hobbies I am pursuing? This isn’t a new question in my life. I even wrote a blog about my futile attempts to figure out on my own terms God’s will for my life. In fact, I almost didn’t write a blog addressing this topic for fear of becoming the quintessential 28-year-old-millenial panicking about the unknowns of the future over and over again and publishing it on the internet for the whole world to read about.
Why am I writing this blog? Because I think this topic, and this question, transcends people in the panicked-28-year-old-millenial life stage.
I think people who are single think about if they are supposed to be married.
I think people who are married think about if they are supposed to start having kids.
I think people who have been in a job for two years think about if they are supposed to start looking for their next opportunity or promotion.
I think people whose children have graduated and left the house think about if they are supposed to consider retirement.
I think people who are involved in active ministries and communities wonder if there is a new call they are supposed to respond to.
“Am I where I am supposed to be?”
The more I thought about the answer to this question, the more it began to dawn on me that it hinges on an inherently flawed premise.
Where did I get the idea there is a place I am supposed to be? Why do I think there is a right and wrong way to follow God with zeal, conviction, and faithfulness? What are better questions I can ask to help me be docile to the Holy Spirit moving in my life?
Today at my church, we celebrated the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. In the scriptures, we’re taken to the Gospel of Luke on the banks of the Jordan River. All of the people have been baptized, as well as Jesus himself. After His baptism unfolds, the heavens open and a voice states for all to hear:
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”Luke 3:22
I love the timing of God’s words to His Son, as well as the tenderness with which they are spoken. God doesn’t come down from the clouds and claim Jesus as His beloved at the wedding of Cana when He performs His first public miracle. He doesn’t claim Jesus as His beloved Son when He multiplies bread and fish and feeds the five thousand. He doesn’t even speak this over Jesus in the moment of His greatest obedience, when “He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) While God was well pleased with His Son in those moments, I believe God intentionally chose the moment of Jesus’ baptism to proclaim this truth over Him.
God claims He is well pleased with Jesus not in moments of fame, miracles, or unfathomable suffering. He claims He is well pleased with Jesus in the moment He affirms and claims His identity as the Son of God.
This message is incredibly comforting to me as I fret about “where I am supposed to be” in order to best serve God. It sends a clear message that where I am supposed to be has nothing to do with my life circumstances and everything to do with the orientation and acceptance of my identity as a beloved daughter of God.
Simply put, the place I am supposed to be is the place where I am embracing my call to live as the Beloved. And embracing that call is completely unrelated to the number of children we have, our job title, our zip code, or even the good things we do for others.
I am reminded of the words in the final chapter of “Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen:
“What of our desires to build a career, our hope for success and fame, and our dream of making a name for ourselves? Is that to be despised? Are these aspirations in opposition to the spiritual life? I believe deeply that all the good things our world has to offer are yours to enjoy. But you can enjoy them truly only when you can acknowledge them as affirmations of the truth that you are the Beloved of God.”
I have decided to change my question from “Am I where I am supposed to be?” to something more useful. Am I using my unique gifts? Am I glorifying God in my daily life?
I’ll close with one more quote that provides a solid framework as we consider our place in life. It comes from David Brooks’ book “The Road to Character.”
“No good life is possible unless it is organized around a vocation. If you try to use your work to serve yourself, you’ll find your ambitions and expectations will forever run ahead and you’ll never be satisfied. If you try to serve the community, you’ll always wonder if people appreciate you enough. But if you serve work that is intrinsically compelling and focus just on being excellent at that, you will wind up serving yourself and the community obliquely. A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your passion. It is found by looking without and asking what life is asking of us.”