When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. (To be fair, I also wanted to be either a firefighter or a sanitation worker, as both of those professions allow one to hang onto the back of a truck as it drives down the road. But that’s another story.) By the time I started high school, I decided a submarine commander would be a better career option. And on and on my aspirations drifted over time, everything from pilot to store owner to professional athlete (seriously!) to heavy equipment operator. I wrote a novel. I applied for federal law enforcement. Oh, the ideas I had for how I could earn a living!
But that’s just hypothetical, right? Surely my actual career path has had more focus, no? No?? In truth, I’ve held a handful of jobs in the nearly twenty years since I graduated from college. But where “path” implies a journey in one direction, my career has perhaps resembled a storm-tossed voyage across treacherous waters in a rudderless craft. I’ve come as a newbie to a number of disparate industries like paint, pet food, semiconductor materials, and commercial solar components. And now I’m living and serving in Ireland! How did we get here?
Decades of work experience can lead one to ask the “what if” questions. What if I’d done this instead of that? What if I’d stayed longer at one place or left sooner from another? What if I’d gotten into any of the careers I envisioned for myself? Would I be commanding the latest multi-billion dollar stealth ship in the US Navy? Would I have worked my way up to driving the garbage truck??
This can be summed up in the term opportunity cost. The Oxford Dictionary defines this, “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” What do we miss out on by choosing one option over another? Either before or after the fact, we can speculate and let our imaginations run wild over the possibilities. If we’re really committed to such speculation, we can set the thinking process to verse and be almost as profound as Robert Frost (even if that poem doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it does). But no matter how much soul-crushing regret we may have over mistakes or smug satisfaction for successes, we can quickly miss the point.
I may feel like I’ve bounced around life with no sense or purpose in the journey. But I serve a God who uses all the twists and turns in my journey for His glory as He grows me up in Him. Just as we have no room for boasting in ourselves in light of God’s work, we also have no room for second-guessing. I may regret sinful choices I’ve made, but even those regrets shape my identity and draw me nearer to Him as I go.
You want some career advice? Here you go.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 [NASB]
Our gifts are to be used in serving one another for the purpose of pointing to God’s grace. Whether we’re speaking or serving, the Source and Destination of our efforts is the One who is even now putting it together for my good. So instead of struggling through the what-ifs of life, what if we enjoy the journey – His journey – as we live out our calling?