I recently passed the 10th anniversary of graduating high school. In other words, I have officially been “adulting” for over a decade. It has been over ten years since I turned 18. More than ten years since I was able to make adult decisions like whether or not to vote, smoke, or ride a bicycle without a helmet. Ten years since I finished my senior year of high school and jumped into the fuzzy unknown of the “real world.” Ten years of figuring out life apart from the innocence of childhood or the confusion of teenage crisis. A lot can happen in a decade. I think back to the dreams and goals I had when I grabbed a diploma and moved a tassel.
My 18 year-old self would probably have been disappointed and confused with how my life has turned out. Despite her excitement over the game-changing product that is dry shampoo, she would have wondered why it took me an extra year to finish college. She would have scratched her head as to why I’m not a medical doctor, finishing out my training in some prestigious residency program. She would have sighed disapprovingly at having ended up in the desert, of all places. She would look at my insecurities and wonder why I don’t seem to “have it together” yet. And she would definitely call out my singleness, wondering how I messed up on my golden opportunity at a Christian college campus, where you’re supposed to get your MRS degree along with your Bachelor’s!
Alas! She has so much to learn! If she was sitting next to me in all her judgment, I would have so much to offer her in explaining how flawed her plan is and how much more glorious God’s plan is! At 18, I was basically off to achieve a Christian version of the American Dream. I wanted to have a successful career that not only paid well, but helped people so that I could have money AND meaning in my life. I wanted to be married right after college so that I could be a young mom and live in a suburban area where I could own a ranch with barnyard animals- all wrapped up in a white picket fence with the merits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Little did I know, God was paving a much different path, one that would eventually reveal a fundamental flaw in my plot. My main issue? I was building my own kingdom. Sure, I wanted God to play a part in my screenplay- an important one, even. But I didn’t want Him to draw outside my lines. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 says that God “calls us into HIS own kingdom.” A lot of heartache comes when we reverse that and call God into OUR kingdom, acting like He owes us things He hasn’t promised.
So what’s the problem with building our own kingdom over God’s? Isn’t it a good thing to want freedom, financial success, and a family? Well, for one, our kingdom dies with us. If it’s earthly, it goes. Marriage, career, dwelling… all the things and statuses dissolve or transform in eternity. Marriage turns to siblinghood, corporate ladders crumble, and earthly homes are traded for lodging prepared by Jesus that won’t have water heaters that break and leak into the apartment below you. Additionally, earthly kingdom-building makes us near-sighted. We ignore the eternal things that God has promised us because we are so enthralled with what we want to create and experience this side of heaven. In short, it’s idolatry, and in my 20’s, I had to come to terms with that to see the bigger picture.
After a fainting spell in a hospital internship (long story), a dateless existence in college, and a couple years spent in cubicle world, I had a couple of options. I could pout and be eaten away by discontentment or I could relinquish the script over to God. Honestly, I chose a mixture of both, but I don’t think He erased the original draft completely. There may be things He chooses to still weave in, in His timing.
Want to know the most beautiful part? In allowing God to trail blaze the best route into eternity, I’m constantly amazed at His goodness and supreme ability to screen write. And if my 18-year-old self were sitting next to me, I would try to convince her of that. But I don’t think I would tell her about the details. I wouldn’t tell her how much she would eventually enjoy teaching science to rowdy high school students. I wouldn’t divulge how incomparable California sunsets and thunderstorms are to Nevada ones. I wouldn’t tell her about all the adventure, passion, and growth that singleness has afforded. I wouldn’t tell her about a best friend whom God will use to change her life. I wouldn’t tell her about earlier this week, when I hung out with an amazing group of students and cried ugly tears all the way home because one is leaving for college. I would leave those beautiful things to be discovered because it was a slow but necessary path in giving up my kingdom for God’s.
So what about you? Did my story bring anything to light about whose kingdom you’re toiling for? Have you seen the futility in laying earthly bricks? I’m convinced we often don’t dream big enough. In plotting out of our own abilities, we don’t have access to much. But Jesus has all the resources and power we lack. Will you surrender to Him and join His kingdom work?