In honor of Shark Week, one of my favorite weeks of the year, here’s something terrifying: the unknown.
I had a conversation with a friend last night and he asked me, “If you had no boundaries, what’s a crazy dream that you would pursue?”
I sat there, thinking for a moment.
“Without boundaries, I would pursue all my crazy dreams at the same time,” I said.
I was not trying to be a smart ass. I really meant it. I have half-pursued Photography, Marine Biology, Egyptology, Music, and so many other things I’ve lost track. I enjoy each so much I could never settle on a major.
After my junior year in college, spent at Northern Arizona University—among the worst of my experiences—I dropped out. I was torn so many different directions and spending money I did not have for a degree I did not want.
But, society says: degree + you = $$$$$
And it absolutely does, if you get a specialized degree to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer.
I dropped out to stop wasting money and to figure out what I was going to do.
The uncertainty of dropping out was scary. A number of people thought it was a terrible idea and I could see a tiny version of myself in their mind’s eye: I would be living in Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park with the rest of the homeless population or bumming off my parents all my life. They never told me so, but I saw it.
My “I want to do everything” answer did not satisfy my friend at all.
“Ok smarty pants, if you could focus on one, what would it be?”
“Writing,” I said. “I want to serve, experience, travel and write about it; and I want to get paid for doing it.”
Then it happened. It was a faint tug—a tug tugging on me most of my life but I always dismissed it. I needed to write and speak. It was not just the joy of doing what I loved; it was the itch needing scratching. It was almost involuntary. Leo Rosten describes it best, “The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.”
I went back to school, got a degree and the Type A side of my personality rejoiced: “Stability and a plan. Yay!”
When my friend shared his dream I asked, “Why haven’t you pursued it?”
His answer was immediate. “Fear of failure.”
There is a difference between a dream and a calling. Determining the difference is between you and God. But, once a calling has been realized…acting in faith feels like the hardest thing He could ask of you. Faith is the moment you must move knowing it could bite you in the ass but you move anyway.
Following Christ is not easy: we are not called to feeling; we are called to faithfulness; we have not been given a Spirit of timidity, but of boldness. To really live it is hard. I used to feel like giving my life up to Christ meant my life was forfeit. I felt like I was being asked to surrender my life and it was some kind of penance.
That’s not what surrendering your life to Christ is at all.
God wants to take us on an adventure and instead we settle for sitting in front of the T.V. because it requires less of us. Watching television requires less of us and it is also more socially acceptable than doing something crazy—and crazy can take a number of forms.
Our culture responds to movement and accepts expected movement. Someone with a fancy new job, marriage or a baby, or moved away is viewed as having “done something.”
Insecurity eats at me sometimes because, outwardly, many aspects of my life still look the same. True, I have work to pass through the agent and publishing mill, but I have nothing to show for it. Nothing has been published yet. There’s no professional writer’s equivalent of a ring, baby bump or six figure paycheck to calculate progress the way the world does. Pursuing writing as a career means no certainty, no stability, and no concrete measurement of progress.
However, I am telling you, the change that continues to occur within me is a tsunami of movement. God lives by His own calculation of progress. Right now, following my call does not make sense; it looks like nothing and sometimes feels like the worst decision ever. The adventure does not always feel like an adventure. It is not always fun.
I don’t know what the future looks like for me, or what it looks like for my friend, but I cling to this: God wants to take you and me on an adventure. The adventure may look formidable; it may not look like a whole lot of fun; the world—even Christian culture—may whisper, or scream, “crazy doesn’t pay the bills,” but you know what?
God does not tiptoe around and away from our unknowns. He speaks into our perception of the unknown and guides us in ways beyond our ability to recognize.
When I went back to school, I went to ASU West because it was close. Due to a misleading course title, I found myself in the class of a woman who would prove to be foundational in my development and I spent the rest of my degree working with her. We worked on a number of bilingual children’s picture books and I wrote a book under her guidance. It will soon be ready for solicitation.
What I saw as accident, I now see as providence. God planted her in my life and she was exactly what I needed. More and more I am finding God shaping the unknown into blessing—into an adventure that makes sense and blesses other people. More and more I am finding He does this with everything. All. The. Time.