As long as I can remember, I've wanted to make an impact on this world—for my life to have significance and purpose. In the American culture, we are taught from a young age that we can do anything we set our minds to, and that we can quite literally change the world. Whether it's making a scientific breakthrough, becoming a successful businessman, working to eliminate poverty, or simply being a positive influence in our family and community, most of us have aspired to do something meaningful with our lives.
I think often about how I'm investing my life, and it also interests me to see what others are doing with theirs. Over the past few months my interest has been piqued by Facebook posts by a friend named Brian, partly because of the contrasts between his life and mine. The two of us graduated at the top of our undergraduate engineering class. Brian went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and to work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He is part of the team responsible for the successful mission of the Curiosity Mars Rover. Pretty cool, eh? Brian and I launched our careers from the same undergraduate engineering program, but our lives have followed very different trajectories.
Could I have gotten into NASA? Perhaps, if I had been passionate about it. Could I have earned a Ph.D.? I'm sure I could have, if I had set my mind to it. Would any of that have given me the sense of purpose that I long for? I think I can safely say, "No".
Brian, if you're reading this, I think your team's accomplishments are incredible! To anyone else who is successful and fulfilled in a so-called "secular" career, keep at it! I believe that God has blessed us each with unique passions and abilities, and expects us to find joy in using them. Each of us has a unique role to play in the story that is unfolding in this world.
So what is my role? How do I use my one chance at life to make a true, lasting impact? It can be tempting to make choices based on validation from others. But I cannot chase the spotlight of recognition, and expect to be faithful to God's calling. In fact, the most important things I do are those that take place far away from the eyes of others. My most basic calling is to know and love God, which gives me the strength to pour my life out for my family, my community, and others.
Jesus did not come seeking fame and recognition in the eyes of the world. He came to turn the world upside-down, but not in the way that anyone expected. He did not come to be served, but to serve.
I will probably never make headlines. The ministry path we are on will potentially take thousands of miles away, to people who are largely ignored, forgotten, or unknown by the most of the outside world. There are plenty of people who will think I am wasting my life. But that's okay.
"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." -Jesus