Today, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at Alberta Bible College about making choices in life. Prior to my presentation we had all seen a video of Donald Miller speaking on the theme of "my life as a movie;" so we all had certain concepts in our head. If your life were a movie, what would the main character want? What would be the conflicts? What would be the climactic scenes? Here is some of what I said to the students.
Many of you in the room are twenty-something, just a few years out of high-school, and you are looking ahead toward many years of life, family, and work. There is a tendency when you are in that position to think that you are now choosing what you will be doing for the rest of your life. There is a lot of pressure on you to make the right choice. That pressure can push us toward the safe options. Faced with going to Africa to drill wells, develop solar or wind technologies, or stay in Canada and get a job as a plumber, we choose the safe option. Now, there is nothing wrong with becoming a plumber, or a doctor, or a pastor, or a fireman if we are choosing it because we are called to it or want to do it. But, if we choose anything because it is safe, that is not a good reason to choose it.
I think I was asked to speak here today because I am kind of the poster boy for having multiple careers. My life is proof that just because you choose one career at this point in your life, you are certainly not stuck in that career for the rest of your life. I also think, by God's grace, that I have been able to avoid choosing the safe option at several points in my life. Donald Miller, in that You-Tube video, suggests that we must "want something," we must "experience conflict," and we must "envision the climactic scenes" of our life.
Let's start with the "wants." Here are how some of my "wants" have matured over the years.
* At 6 years old I wanted to be tall. My grand-father was six foot one and I prayed that I might be taller than him. Today I am six foot three. Did God answer that very immature prayer?
* At 17 years old I wanted to get away. I had just graduated high-school and I was rebelling against my parents. I left to go to a university engineering program. It was still an immature "want." I was just running away.
* At 28 my wants matured a bit. I was married and had two kids and I was in University. I wanted a job that would feed my family. This was a more noble goal but not exactly a worthy "want."
* At 35 I wanted to serve God as a leader in the church.
* At 53 I find that I want to pour my life into turning over the leadership of the church to a new generation of leaders.
I encourage you to get a head-start on setting some worthy goals. Desire great things for God now; at this point in your life. Decide now what that worthwhile life goal will be.
Donald Miller also encourages us to embrace conflict. I absolutely agree with this concept. God does not protect us from difficulty, struggle, conflict, or pain. He uses such things to build our souls. He is much more interested in our souls than he is in our fleeting physical lives. Allow the conflict of your life to shape your soul and make you stronger.
Miller encourages us to imagine the climactic scenes in our lives. Allow me to pin-point a few climactic scenes in my own life so that you might imagine how yours might look.
1. At 18 I was headed for an Engineering degree. I could finish the program and be guaranteed a good job at the end of the program. The choice was Engineering school (safe) or finish a degree at Alberta Bible College (ABC) to be prepared for serving God (unsafe - throwing away my earning potential). I chose to finish a degree at ABC.
2. After graduating from ABC, I spent a few years working in churches as a pastor. Eventually, I had a choice to make, keep working as a pastor (safe) or go back to school and seek to get into the medical field (unsafe, going back to school, going into debt). I chose to go back to school and work on a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology.
3. After graduating from the University of Calgary I began work at the Alberta Children's Hospital working in the Molecular Diagnostic Lab. Years later, another choice came along. I could stay as a Lab scientist (safe, I had been there for 13 years; I could easily retire there with a pension) or become a church planter (unsafe - risky, no guarantees). I chose to leave the lab and start a new church congregation.
4. Five years later, we had started a new church in Calgary and we had a stable church that could sustain me as their pastor. I could stay there as a Church pastor in Calgary (safe) or I could go and be a church planter again in Vancouver (unsafe). I chose to go to Vancouver and start again. This time, the planting did not go as well and we failed in Vancouver. Yet, in the midst of "failure," people's lives were changed and God was gracious to us.
The conclusion of all of this is that, in my life, I have managed to slowly develop more and more mature "wants" in my life; and, at most of the climactic scenes in my life, I have chosen the unsafe choice. I encourage you to want big things in life: world peace, an end to hunger, an end to poverty in our world, that all people might hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, that many might become followers of Jesus. Dream big. I also encourage you to regularly choose the things to which God just might be calling you. When faced with safe and unsafe options, go for the unsafe options.