Stop Building Your Own Kingdom!
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?
8 thoughts on “Stop Building Your Own Kingdom!”
Originally read this over at Relevant Magazine. Great thoughts and thanks for the encouragement.
No prob! Glad to encourage!
Hi! Just wondering — would you be able to elaborate on more of your story? Just because I also had a fainting episode in the clinic where I used to work, which was part of the reason why I chose not to apply to medical school… but I still wish I did, or had the guts to do so! I’ve also thought about teaching and would like to do some form of teaching someday. Anyways, just wanted to say that what you wrote resonated a lot with me, as I navigate my twenties. Thanks for writing 🙂
Absolutely! I’ll try to keep it short 🙂
I was in a hospital internship where I got to be exposed to different areas of the hospital. The fainting episode happened on the L&D rotation while I was observing an epidural prior to a c-section. It was super embarrassing! I thought that maybe it was something that I could overcome, and I had many people tell me that it happens sometimes for new medical personnel but that you can get over it. A couple weeks later, I had to get my blood drawn, and I fainted again. At that point, it seemed like the medical career door was shut pretty tight. It was a couple years after I graduated with my degree in Biology before I even considered teaching. I think I might have considered it sooner, but my pride was holding me back. I liked how impressive it sounded to say that I was premed in college. Teaching (wrongly) felt beneath me. Within those 2 post-grad years, I took the first job that would help pay off student loans. It was an office job that I wasn’t super passionate about BUT it was the kind of job that didn’t send work home, so I was able to get involved in youth ministry at my church. After God did a bit of molding and pruning, I had this aha moment where I realized I could combine my love for science and my love for youth ministry in the same job. I had connections to a private school outside of Vegas, and they happened to be in desperate need for a science teacher, so they didn’t care that I didn’t have experience. They were willing to train me and put up with a rookie. So…not sure if you are like me and God is leading you to teaching OR if you need to enroll in a phlebotomy class to give it your best effort to get used to the glamorous side of medicine 🙂 Glad my piece resonated with you and I’m praying for guidance!
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I wanted to contact you but I cannot find your email so I am writing here. Firstly, I would like to express that your post is very inspiring and definitely offers a new perspective on how to live life her on earth as well as the joy of following God’s kingdom instead of ours. May I ask though if it is okay, how do u know that what you are doing now is according to God’s plan and what you were doing before was not? because often times, I struggle with that, so I am wondering about it.
Thank you very much!
Thanks for contacting me! I think that unfortunately, the kind of gut-wrenching confirmation of God’s plan we often seek is usually found by looking in the rearview mirror much after the decision has been made. So what to do when a decision demands an answer? I got some really good advice from a youth pastor one time. He said that as long as it’s not an issue of morality, going against God’s specific will lined out in scripture, breaking commitments, or in opposition to sound advice from wiser people, what do you WANT to do? For me, one of the biggest decisions I made was moving to Nevada to try out teaching. When I went to interview, I told God that I wasn’t going to put on an “interview face”…in other words, I made sure they understood my inexperience and the areas I needed to grow in. I even remember saying that I wasn’t sure how much science I remembered from college! My reasoning was that if I was going to take a pay cut and move away from friends and family, I wanted God to make it abundantly clear. Despite my “sabotage” they still hired me. But I also wanted to move. I looked at my gifts and ways God had prepared me, and it seemed as if He was calling me to Vegas. So to Vegas I went, unsure if I would even be good at teaching or enjoy it. But I was confident in God’s promise that He will work all things together for good. In other words, if we are His, we can’t mess up our lives! In retrospect, I’m glad God doesn’t always spell out His will, because it helps us learn to trust and depend. And when He does bring confirmation in the people you meet, the amazing things that happen, or the ways you grow, it’s SO much sweeter than if the answer had been easy!
Long time no see! I can’t believe it’s been over ten years since we were in high school. Can’t say that I miss it, but I do hold some dear memories. I stumbled upon your blog and love it. I admire your strength and contentment and courage to express through your own experience. I can only agree with you when you say it’s been a slow path and highlight on how necessary for growth that path is. It took me an extra year to graduate as well, but I’m proud of us for finishing 🙂 I also ended up in a desert. Funny, we have those two things in common. Three… four… if you count cheer leading and high school… five… when you factor in our faith 🙂 Hope all is well and thank you for the Wednesday inspiration. Take care.
Saw your comment a while ago, but the school year tends to be a black hole that sucks me in and I leave things that I really want to accomplish undone. One of those things, being, replying to your post! I’m so excited to hear from you! It is super crazy that it’s been ten years…you are so sweet to reach out and encourage me after all this time! I always admired your confidence. I had major social anxiety in high school, so I often wondered where you found your supply of what I lacked! Ah well- high school was necessary, but I’m right with you when you say you don’t miss it…I’m really glad to hear you’re doing well. Faith is something that we don’t have in common with a lot of the GB 06′-ers. I know it’s typical, but for some that we knew and love, I wonder how long it will take for earthly pursuits to finally not be enough. Because without Jesus, my life just wouldn’t have true meaning, and I can’t fathom my life otherwise.
Anyways, congrats on your recent marriage! The instagram photos were BEAUTIFUL. So precious. Anyways, thanks again for reaching out. It means a lot!