Note: This is adapted from a blog post I wrote several years back, but seems pertinent as I think about vocation in my new context.
When I grow up I’m going to be a teacher. An astronaut. A baseball player. The list goes on of the words that I heard as a child growing up. I recall hearing one of my fellow teammates ask that question of a young child in Zimbabwe. An orphan. She couldn’t answer the question because the reality was she probably wasn’t going to grow up. A majority of the orphans where we were had HIV/AIDS. And even if she did grow up she really had no choice of what she was going to be.
It makes me wonder if we are asking the wrong question.
For years I talked about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized that I had grown up. I’m not sure when it happened. When I packed up my Honda Accord and headed off to college. On my 18th birthday near the end of my freshmen year. When I drove cross country to start grad school in Boston. As I spoke to my classmates at Baccalaureate. As I took my first real job far from home. I don’t know. All I know is that I grew up.
And I needed to stop asking what I’m going to be, but rather who I am going to be. Not tomorrow or 20 years from now, but right now, every day. Who am I made to be? Who am I going to be?
I’m bought with a price. A child made in the image of the creator. A sinner saved by grace. I’m called to be peacemaker. A grace giver. A friend to the friendless. A light in the darkness. A lover of all.
And these callings of who I’m supposed to be remain regardless of what it is I’m doing. Being who I’m supposed to be is not something that requires a certain job. I can’t wait until tomorrow to determine whom He has called to be. Because it’s here- every day- that I must come to the place of determining that I will embrace not only what I’m called to be, but also who I’m called to be.
*In case you’re wondering those adorable children are my sister and me. I’m pretty sure that was the dirtiest I ever got as a kid.
I look at the window at the crowded streets and sidewalks. I can spot men with shirts rolled up to expose their bellies to cool them off in the sweltering sun. They call it the “Beijing belly.” Apparently during the Olympics, they tried to discourage the Beijing belly as a form of impolite behavior, but alas, the tradition continues on. And it hits me, once again. I live here. I live in China. I’m not here on vacation (even though my current residence is a hotel) or for a semester abroad. I’m here for two years…and perhaps much longer.
There are moments when the sights and sounds of China seem overwhelming. I know those moments will come and go, with some days being far more overwhelming than others. I’m sure there will be times when I think, “did I really move to China?” Okay, let’s be honest, there are times when I’ve already thought that.
But then yesterday, we had some English students take us around the city. As we talked with these two students, my heart overflowed with joy. And I was reminded of why I’m here. To see their faces. To hear their stories. To be a part of their lives. And of course, to stealthily capture some photos of the Beijing belly.
And yes, I’m wearing bunny ears. They are pretty cool.
As I prepare to leave for China, I can’t help but think of the world’s cutest child–my only niece Mackenzie. (And no, I am not at all bias.) At a little over 2, she is currently at the “what’s that?” stage of life. Whether it be a plug in the wall or a ladder on the dock, she is curious about the names and functions of the all of these objects in her world. Her mom has said that she is sure what will be next, the inevitable question of, “why?” When I think of her curiosity, something that is does not hold judgment or prejudice, but simple childlike wonder, it challenges me as I enter into a new world. In this new world, I’m sure there will be many times when I’m sure I will ask the question–what’s that? And many times, I will be tempted to not adopt a childlike posture when I ask that question. I might even realize that I have never asked the question, “why?” in determining why I do things the way that I do…I have simply answered the question as parents sometimes do, “just because that’s the way it is.” I hope that as I leave for China, I will learn from the childlike wonder and curiosity of Mackenzie–that I will be able to ask questions without being blinded by my own ideas…and be willing to not only hear the what, but also learn the why.