Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Perspectives (I)

The Calling of God / Ambition

When I was younger, I had all kinds of aspirations for my life. My ambitions seemed to be limited to whatever had my attention at the moment. Now I was a hockey player, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to its first Stanley Cup since 1967 (I still sometimes fantasize about this, sadly). Now I was a fireman saving people from blazing buildings of death. The things that really seemed to capture my imagination, however, and implant themselves in my brain, were stories. From the earliest age that I can remember, stories had a way of moulding my aspirations. I felt the burden of master Frodo on his journey to destroy the ring of Sauron. The supernatural presence that was present in Frank Peretti’s novels were present with me. The ambitious qualities of courage and fidelity were not those of Reepicheep, but they were my own. Through reading stories, I came to understand and desire certain qualities of character, while leaning to despise others.

No stories seemed so real or had such an impact on me than those of the Bible. There weren’t three men thrown in the furnace, there were four including me. I was a soldier creeping through the dark of the night with a torch inside a clay pot, waiting for the command of my commander Gideon. I was the 13th disciple. The stories of the Bible have a character about them that cause me to feel the experience to a greater depth than most of my favourite novels. Perhaps it was because of this that I was able to say with certainty that if God had chosen me instead of Samson, there wouldn’t be a sordid tale of lust and immorality. That if I had been king instead of Rehoboam, the kingdom of Israel would never have split. When reading the stories I would often do so with a certain judiciary sense. I was offended at the sins of God’s chosen people and believed that I was incapable of disobeying God in such ways. I was correct in this sentiment, for if the exact same scenario were to play out in my life, surely I would recognize the script and be careful to avoid the mistake. (What I never realized as a lad in all my justice, was that I would be guilty of the same categories of sins as many of these characters.)

One recognizable effect of being so completely absorbed in the stories I read was the incredible amount of ambition I had for my own life, as I stated in the beginning. I fully expected that God would make me into some kind of biblical hero; working miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead and predicting the future through me. I looked to the future with such expectation and excitement for the great man that God would make me.

As I’ve matured in my thinking and developed in years, I’ve come to understand the folly of that sort of ambition. Ambition in itself is not a bad thing, but like most things, there is a good form and a bad form. The ambition I had as a younger man was concerned with what God would make me into. I was eager to be a recognized man. I was eager to do great things for God, not for the glory of God, but for the stories that would be told of me. The ambition I had was misplaced. A proper form of ambition is one which seeks to glorify God and fulfill His purpose for my life, whatever that may be. The important part of that statement is the fulfillment of God’s purpose.

How can we know what God’s purpose is? We know that He’s given us His Word to reveal Himself to us, but what is His specific purpose for my life? The answer to this question is something that I believe holds a lot of power over what God can do in our lives. One common characteristic of a hero, no matter where that hero is written about, is that they did not know their destiny (with the exception of the greatest hero). The feat(s) about which are written were generally unknown to them before they happened. This applies with fictional as well as real heroes. It seems to me that the most important thing that God has revealed to us the specific purpose for each of our lives is by His revelation of His desire for specific roles. That statement needs a little bit of unpacking.

God has generalized for us a few of His purposes by telling us about roles. He’s revealed, for example, that a husband’s role is to love his wife and that a wife’s role is to submit to her husband. He’s revealed that parents are not to provoke their children and children are to honour their parents. It would follow, then, that to glorify God best, I ought to determine what specific roles have been assigned to me, learn what God expects of those roles, and seek how to fulfill them in my life. Ambition ought to be directed towards matching the requirements of particular roles, and success can be measured by how closely we match God’s description of those particular roles.

This understanding has the potential to change my entire approach to my life. If I understand the roles God has given me, then I know what He wants me to do. I know I’m a worker so I know that God wants me to approach my work as if I’m doing it for Him. I know I’m a husband so I know God wants me to love my wife sacrificially and lead her spiritually, as well as honour her as a fellow heir of grace. I know I’m a son so I know God wants me to respect my parents and speak to them with dignity. This new view of life ought to change my entire approach to my life. I wasn’t wrong to have aspirations when I was younger, my aspirations were just misplaced. The question is now, am I willing to change my aspirations to fulfill my God-ordained purpose? The answer to that question is on the horizon.

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