Posted on: Apr 24, 2009
This reflection was written for Developing a Christian Mind at Calvin College.
I am often reminded of a moment when I was a little girl, 4 or 5 years old. Our extended family was enjoying food and drinks in our kitchen and I was sitting in the corner, just being cute, when my mom asked me the age old question, “So what do you want to be when you grow up, Bethany?” and followed it up with the well-known “…and you can be whatever you want.” I smiled and quickly answered, “I want to drink beer out of a can!” Of course this was not my real ambition, I was only trying to get a rise out of my parents and relatives. In my kindergartener’s dreams, I was a professional ice skater, a librarian, an Olympic gymnast, a pilot, and a veterinarian. As I grew older, so did my ambitions. My parents are both very driven, so from very early on I was encouraged to be a doctor or a lawyer or the President of the United States. It is amazing how closely these encouragements and expectations have followed me as I have entered into adulthood.
When I was a freshman in high school, I decided that I was going to go to college to study Optometry, and later possibly use this on the mission field. My faith in Christ was new and fresh, and I was itching to make myself useful to God in the best way I knew how, which was using my “smarts” and going to med school. This ambition stuck with me through high school, and my passion for Optometry only grew. By the time I entered college, I had my entire life planned out, from where I would go to college and grad school, to when I would get married, to how many kids I would have, etc. This is a method I would not recommend. There is a tense balance between planning for the future and acquiring tunnel vision, where you only consider one option and ignore little tugs and whispers that might lead you in a different direction. I am slowly learning to become open to different options for direction for my life, and listen to my own heart and to God for direction instead of the consistent nag of societal pressures and expectations.
This is the balance in my mind between vocation and career. I think that your career can lead to your vocation, or the other way around, if you are perceptive to where God is leading you. I think this is why students feel so much pressure to choose the “right path”, even though we are useful to God in all areas of work and in all aspects of our lives. It is comforting to know this truly. I take comfort also in the quote by Frederick Buechner, who says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” We can do great things for God no matter what path our life takes us down.