When I was little I wanted to be Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, a Cruise Director, the President, a Krispie Kreme worker, or a Broadway star. I would get so excited when someone asked me that question, “Caroline, what do you want to do when you grow up?”
Apparently I am now a grown up. I no longer get the privilege of hiding behind extracurriculars, school semesters, or summer breaks. I now have a choice in what it is I do with my time and I’m realizing that I’ve had a choice all along- we all have.
Every weeknight I go to bed around 11:30 or 12. Why? Because I have to get up at 7 for work and I need to not be exhausted so I can properly function. I work until 5 and by the time I’m home, have a cup of coffee or glass of lemonade, and exhale- it is 5:30. I’ve then got about 6 hours to cook and eat dinner, put away clothes, clean the bathroom, exercise, visit/skype a friend, or whatever it is I’m attempting to do that evening; it seems these 6 hours go incredibly quickly.
50 hours of our week come between 7 and 5. If you count your sleep the night before, it’s 90. 90 hours a week that you will not get back, that you will spend doing something, that you only get once.
We have a choice.
I have a friend who is thinking about putting in her 2 weeks notice. She doesn’t feel that these 90 hours are worth whatever it is she is doing. All of her energy, time, and strength go into sustaining herself so she can do her work.
And time passes. 90 hours every week turns into 180 and then 270. And then it’s been 6 months, or 12, or 24.
I asked my friend what she wanted to do or what she felt she wasn’t getting to do in her job. She said there was a dichotomy between her work and her “ministry.” That somewhere between 7 and 5 her hands at work became separated from her heart’s passion. I don’t believe she is alone. Somewhere amidst those 90 hours, our hearts stop beating and our hands go on autopilot. We forget that we’re living our lives. Our one and only life. We forget that we won’t ever get March 10, 2013 back. We forget we have a choice.
A director I once had in theatre would yell at us whenever he thought our energy was down, our lines were mechanical, or our performance was sub-par. “High stakes!” he would yell, “These are your lives people! High stakes everyone!”
I think we have to ask ourselves, unless we want those 90 hours to be wasted each and every week, why we do what we do and what for.
I think instead of asking children what they want to be when they grow up, we should ask them who they want to be. Maybe their answers will move from engineers, teachers, and firemen to encouragers, comforters, justice-seekers, and peace-makers. I think God is much less concerned about the former and much more interested in the latter. God longs to define who we are. Our identity is not in what we do but where our heart is when we do it. The blessing is, we get to choose.
I do not think this means that everyone should be a pastor. Or build an orphanage. Or start a non-profit for the homeless. I don’t think we should glorify the people who do these things either. But I do think that we should give a lot more time and energy to the 90 hours that so often drive the focus of our week. I do not think we should all move to developing countries and love on street children (Though I’m sure there are many that need it). I do not think we should all trade in our white collars for clerical robes (Though some probably should). I do not think we should all hand in our notices for hammers to build homes for the homeless (Though I’m sure some hammers lie waiting). I do think though that our lives should operate on a different timetable than 7 to 5.
You owe it to yourself to ask what is it that I want to do, stand for, be, and seek after and how can I do that in the best way possible. I think you pick your virtues or values and let those determine your life. Your job is not the end; your job is not the goal; your life should not operate only between 7 and 5. Your job is only the means to the end. If you want to live a life of compassion- be a nurse, be a dad, be a dancer, be a professional cyclist. If you want to live a life of justice- be a lawyer, be an activist, be a tailor, be a gardener. But remember that being a gardener is not the end. A gardener is only a means to embracing justice. Remember that being a nurse does not make you compassionate. A nurse is only one choice that you can choose to demonstrate compassion through. God plants inside each of us passions and desires that will bring the kingdom of Heaven to this kingdom of earth, but we exchange those higher ends and goals for currencies of careers.
If you never ask yourself what for, if you never see you have a choice, if you never stop between 7 and 5 and say why in the world am I doing this- your 90 hours will direct you. They will consume you. They will devour your days.
Operate today from a different timetable. Today- you will not be a chef; you will be a bringer of gentleness, a seeker of beauty, and a demonstration of creativity. And if you find that being a chef no longer allows you to do these things, if being a chef is no longer a means to your ultimate ends of gentleness, beauty, and creativity- then tomorrow, perhaps you shouldn’t be a chef, perhaps you should be unemployed. Perhaps tomorrow you should courageously take hold of your choice and choose to direct your own 90 hours. You have that choice.
Perhaps one day I will have the courage of Dr. Quinn, the enthusiasm of a Cruise Director, and the confidence of a Broadway star. But if you asked me now what I want to do when I grow up- I’d tell you I want to be a lover of the poor, a creator of potential, a shepherd of hope, a light of joy, a killer of apathy, and a rain of justice. It is my prayer that I always choose a means that allows me to seek these as my ends. After all, these are high stakes everyone and we have a choice.