Career planning? Future direction? I knew I was going to attend college before I even entered high school; it was just a matter of which one. I knew I was going to have my medical degree by the time I was in my mid-twenties; it was just a matter of which specialty. You see, I charted my own roadmap, and I made my own plans!
But things changed during my sophomore year at Pomona College. The trauma of working at an ER during the summer, the backstabbing from other students over grades, and the breakup from a romantic relationship all took its toll. The existential question came back to haunt me and I had no answer – why am I in school? What’s my purpose?
Why was I experiencing all of these setbacks? Had I not been a good Christian? Was I praying incorrectly, or did I do something to anger God?
Paul’s words helped to reset my frame of reference. In Romans 12:1, Paul says that I am to offer myself as a living sacrifice in worship to God. I had been acting as if I was the Lord of my own life. I set my goals, planned my future, and provided my own definition for excellence. A sacrifice doesn’t do any of that!
Perhaps my drive for excellence was simply a way to extract praises from others, or even from myself. I felt like I needed to justify my own sense of worth and bring purpose to my life. But when I readjust my frame of mind and recognize I am not the center of my universe, then I know I am justified because God accepts me. If I don’t have to live every single minute of every day satisfying that little moral monster inside of me, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2, I am free to express my life. Offering myself as a living sacrifice to God is to allow God to drive because I know I am accepted, and he means good for me.
The journey of not being in the driver’s seat may feel strange. There are places and work and ministries that I would not have chosen for myself, including going to seminary. But the joy of doing these things and doing them well is no longer driven by my need to justify my worth, but rather the love of experiencing God’s presence in the minutia. What’s my purpose? I am his!
- Do you find yourself trying to stick with the plan you’ve created for yourself? How would you define excellence, or success in your life?
- Take some time to reflect on Romans 12:1-2. How is God speaking to you today through these words?
- Are you allowing God to be the driver in your life? Pray to God and ask him to renew your mind so that you may live life according to His will and not your own.
Written by Peter Chow. Artwork by Carol Li