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How am I supposed to figure out what to do with my life?

Working at a university, I get this question a lot, from the visiting high school student to the college sophomore beginning to realize that the major they entered college for won’t be the one they graduate with. “What am I going to do for a job with my degree?”

While it’s overly simplistic to quickly quip, “You were created a human being, not a human doing,” it’s also imperative that somehow that message gets (tactfully) conveyed. Ours is a call to being before it is ever a call to doing. In fact, our primary identity, before anything else in life, is that we are the object of God’s affection. And as followers of Jesus, our calling is not first and foremost about how we get financially compensated for what we do.

Tragically, we live in a world today that often values people primarily for what they produce. Worse, we mistake identity for vocation: “I am a lawyer,” or “I am a teacher.” While the identification itself isn’t untrue, it is woefully incomplete. You may very well teach, and even be great at it, but you are so much more than only a teacher.

Jobs, even careers, come and go. But they are not the primary means by which our influence is gained. Nor are they platforms from which to legislate the gospel. They are places where our identities, passions, skills, and character—the unique ways we are put together—find their place in what God is already at work doing in his world.

Perhaps this is exactly what the prophet Jeremiah had in mind when he wrote long ago:


This is what the LORD says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom

   or the strong boast of their strength

   or the rich boast of their riches,

but let the one who boasts boast about this:

   that they have the understanding to know me,

that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,

   justice and righteousness on earth,

   for in these I delight,”

       declares the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24).

Maybe we should start asking our children not “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but “Who do you want to be?”

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