When you were a child, what did you dream about doing when you grew up? I’m going to take a guess that you didn’t say, “Work an eighty-hour job to afford an expensive house and car but never see my family.” You most definitely didn’t say, “Plod through a dreary, colorless existence without life or excitement.”
If you were like me, you dreamed of a life of adventure and meaning. But maybe those dreams weren’t achievable—severe motion sickness ended the astronaut idea or two left feet made the prima ballerina dream unlikely. But maybe, just maybe, they were achievable but you convinced yourself to take the practical route. You let fear dictate your decisions. You ignored that small voice that might have been God urging you to take a chance on something new, different, or wildly impractical.
Maybe you still hear that voice.
The fact is, the lives that we are meant to live might not look like the grand dreams of our childhood, but we can still find excuses not to take the plunge, no matter how close to home our calling might be.
1. We wait to be older.
“When I grow up” was always the mantra for the adventures I dreamed of having. We seem to believe that adding years to our age will make pursuing our callings easier. And in some cases, that’s true. Education and physical age are required for many endeavors. But if we’re waiting for that arbitrary feeling of “having grown up,” we will remain stagnant and never actually grow. It was when I hit the age of 40 that I realized I will never be completely grown up. And that’s a good thing, because it’s far better to rely on God’s leading than on my own life experience.
2. We wait to be married.
So many Christians, women in particular, put marriage at the top of their life’s to-do list. For good reason: marriage is wonderful and established by God for the mutual benefit of men and women. However, if that number one position on the list means that you’re ignoring your personal and spiritual growth, thinking that it can happen after the wedding, the married state has been transformed into something of an idol.
While you can absolutely follow God’s plans for your life when you’re married—I’ve been fortunate to find a husband who has encouraged me and supported me in my dreams; in fact, I wouldn’t be a novelist today if it weren’t for him—it is by no means the requirement for living the life you were meant to have. I always recommend that teenage girls and young women focus more on their dreams, their relationship with Jesus, and becoming the person they were meant to be than on guys. When you’re shaping your character and honing your faith, you’re more likely to find someone who shares your long-term goals and values . . . because you already know what they are.
3. We wait to be financially stable.
This is a big one, because being financially responsible is a must, especially when you have a family. I cringe when people abandon well-paying jobs to chase a dream that’s more like an ill-conceived midlife crisis. But other times, God may be calling you outside your comfort zone in order to teach you to trust in Him rather than in your savings account.
I’ll give you an illustration—when my oldest son was a year old, my family moved from Los Angeles to Denver. My husband and I had an expensive house, pricey cars, and well-paying jobs, but we weren’t comfortable with the childcare options available to us and having me stay home was not an option if we remained in California. Instead, we sold our house, bought another one in Colorado, and moved our small family a thousand miles—without a job and only $300 in our bank account. Everyone told us we were crazy, but we knew God was leading us elsewhere. And it’s turned out to be the best decision we could have ever made.
4. We wait for a guarantee.
I’ll freely admit, I’m one of those people: the planners, the ones who have to have it all figured out before I take a leap, especially when it comes to my career. But many times, when God is calling us to do something new, He doesn’t show us the outcome in advance. That can cause us to be paralyzed with fear and indecision, when really, this is an opportunity to grow our faith. When God opened the door for me to publish my first novel after fifteen years of trying and failing, I had no idea how it would turn out. Would I be a resounding success? An embarrassing failure? The truth has fallen somewhere in the middle, and I still don’t know if I will ever achieve the bestseller success that I hope for. But I do know that I’m where God has called me to be, and that is guarantee enough to continue on this path for as long as He’s beside me.
5. We wait for permission.
Sometimes we clearly know what God is speaking into our hearts. We know without a doubt that we need to pursue it. And still we stop. Maybe it’s our own doubts or insecurities that tell us that we’re misunderstanding. Maybe it’s the people around us who tell us we’re not equipped for the task before us. Know that if God is calling you to do something, then His permission is the only one you need. Pray for direction and opportunities, and be open to taking them.
In my upcoming novel, Brunch at Bittersweet Café, my protagonist Melody Johansson finds herself wrestling with many of these issues: when she’s presented with her dream career, she’s afraid to move forward because of all the ways it could go wrong, all the things that she could be missing out on. Without knowing the future, without an audible voice from heaven, how is she supposed to know which path to take?
What Melody comes to realize is what we all come to realize eventually: true faith is only developed when it’s tested. And sometimes that means listening to God’s leading, taking a leap, and being willing to accept wherever it leads you. Because after all, we’ll never find the life we were meant to live if we’re afraid to leave behind the life we weren’t.