As a child I would have sworn I was destined to be the next pop star. I was going to live in a glitzy mansion in L.A., marry a Justin Timberlake look-a-like and have a closet the size of my current apartment. After all, this is the ultimate level of success, is it not? All a girl could ever dream of.
As I got a bit older, while I still dreamed of being rich and famous, I started to become slightly more realistic. I thought being successful meant that I got all the right grades, went to the best school, got the job of my dreams and worked hard to move forward continuously so that ultimately I could still afford my slightly more realistic dream home and the finer things in life.
You see all too often in our culture we are faced with this overwhelming feeling that in order to be successful we have to continue to achieve. We have to make more money, get the promotion and make a name for ourselves. On top of this, we need to have more and more “stuff” to show for our success. A big, beautiful, impeccably decorated home with the latest electronics and priciest cars and toys. This is the American way and the American dream isn’t it? To not only keep up with, but if possible, surpass those Joneses, whoever they are.
And if you are not doing these things, not “moving forward”, that is, then you either must not be trying hard enough or had a bought of bad luck right? I mean why would you willingly leave that six figure job for a measly five or move from your comfortable home on dream lane to a one-bedroom studio. That’s crazy talk, most would say.
1 Timothy 6: 6-8 states, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” You see when we trust in the Lord and seek to strengthen our relationship with Him, this is the greatest wealth we could ever dream of. This is all we need. I have been reminded of this scripture lately as I have been reading the book Kisses from Katie. This book, written by Katie Davis, shares her story of how she left her comfortable life here in the states to serve in Uganda only to find herself adopting 13 children and making the choice to make this country her permanent home. Throughout the text, Katie describes how while she, like so many of the people she comes into contact with have so very little, they have such a strong love for the Lord. The cool thing is all, God loves them just as much as you or I, and sees us equally no matter our circumstance.
Katie chose to leave that track to success to lead what we may deem is a way less glamorous lifestyle, because she felt it was what God was calling her to do. And while many thought her choices were holding her back from having the successful life she could have made for herself, I can’t help but think “you go girl”! She made her own definition of success, that while maybe counter cultural, has been equally if not more impactful than that pop star I so longed to be as a child.
This post is by no means meant to say that if you are on that “forward” moving path I described that that is not the direction you should go. For some, it is. It is just a reminder that for others, success may look different. It may even look like a step in the wrong direction.
I have been on this “forward” moving path the majority of my life. And I will admit I have had my fair share of struggles these past few years as I began to discover that all those straight A’s, job promotions, and shopping sprees that I worked so hard for and that left so many thinking I had it all together, at times left me feeling more stressed, empty and further from God. I have been so concerned my entire life with achieving in the way I thought I was supposed to and being so proud of what I had accomplished “on my own”, that I think at times it has potentially kept me from being the success story I was created to be. Lately, I have found so much freedom in scaling back my lifestyle, spending less time working and more time on relationships and learning to be okay with the fact that in this moment I am not moving forward at 100 miles an hour. I am learning that it would be equally as okay if I even took a step backward to that lessor paying job that brings me more fulfillment or that new car that is in fact older than my previous one if it meant bringing me more financial peace or that I could share more of our blessings with others. I am learning slowly but surely to place more of my success in God’s hands, and letting it be defined less by what society deems it should be.
My advice to you is that you don’t get caught up in all the this and thats of life and let them lead you away from what is most important. Remember none of these earthly possessions were ours to begin with and won’t be ours when we leave this world either. They don’t make you more worthy. You still have the same value no matter your job, things or bank account. Don’t be afraid to take a step “backward” if that is what you think God is calling you to do, and remember to praise Him for all the milestones along the way. There is a different definition of success for all of us, and sometimes yours may not be found in taking the glittering, gold-paved path. Sometimes that path is overrated.