I’m a young twenty-something. I should be changing the world, right? I should be traveling abroad, climbing the career ladder (preferably at a revolutionary non-profit organization, am I right?), going into the mission field, protesting behind my choice causes. There was a time about two years ago where I was sure I was going to go help plant churches in Italy; sounded like a good post-college plan to me. But here I am: married, working part-time at a small zoo in NE Ohio, going to small group on Thursday nights, helping with my small church’s youth group, doing pile after pile of dishes and laundry (from only two people… how?), and writing a blog with about 25 followers. I would not trade some of these things for the world, but still, strands of discontentment and fear can come raging in unexpectedly amidst the folding of t-shirts: what the heck am I doing? Am I wasting my time, my abilities? So here is what my millennial dreamer’s heart needs to hear, and I think maybe some of my fellow millennials out there need to hear too.
I know you guys, I am one of you guys, and here’s our situation: The world is open to us, and that is an exciting but fearful thing. The world is more open to us than any generation before. The trail has been blazed: we have the most confident “can-do” spirit thanks to those participation ribbons in junior soccer even when our team didn’t win; we have the most access to information and global connection thanks to the likes of Google and Snapchat; we have the most opportunity thanks to the hard work of the generation before us opening the doors for education, travel, and various other experiences. The trail has been blazed, but we are setting that trail ablaze with the entitlement we often feel because of that very trail. We feel entitled to success, to “making a difference,” to a big Instagram following, to going and doing. I am not saying ambition and dreams are wrong. By no means! But if these ambitions and dreams are crowding out our contentment and effectiveness in the present reality because we want the thrill of “more,” than we need some reevaluation of our definitions of “purpose” and “good.”
If you are a professing Christian, our purpose is laid out for us in Romans 8. Verse 28 says that for “those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.” What is that purpose? Well verse 29 tells us it is to be “conformed to the image of his Son,” redeeming the images we bear of God marred by sin in Genesis. In many ways, this purpose opens the world right up again. We can go anywhere, do anything because God can use anything to conform us to His image – He is not confined. But what if conforming us to His image involves “confining” us in Nowheresville, USA? A minimum wage job? Four kids at home? We need that reminder back in verse 28 that this purpose is worked together for our good, even if it doesn’t feel that way. And it doesn’t feel that way because we are settling for a lesser good.
Often, our standards of good are defined by a culture that often contradicts itself on what is good: It’s good to be single vs. it’s good to be married, it’s good to be a traveling free spirit vs. it’s good to land a corporate job that makes a lot of money, it’s good to live simply vs. it’s good to have a big house with a lot of stuff, and so on. The world does not even know what is good. But here is what is good: Jesus Christ – God Himself – came to this broken world and dwelt among us. He willingly died on the cross, not only so that we would get Heaven in His presence for eternity, but so that we could have the Spirit – God Himself – dwell inside us, helping us loosen our grip on this empty world, teaching us to taste and see what is truly, eternally good (John 14:15-17, 26). In her book on coveting, The Envy of Eve, Melissa Kruger describes the goodness of this purpose, the “important role we have in human history:”
“The God of the entire universe set you apart, before the creation of the world, to be adopted as His child through Christ. You are a chosen person, a part of a royal priesthood and holy nation, a person belonging to God. In every experience you go through, God is at work in your life. While it may seem like you are stuck, waiting and forgotten, God’s Word says that you are part of the greatest story ever told. At every turn, God is working for your good.” (p. 61)
So here I am, folding laundry after a day at the zoo, waiting for my husband to get home. It may not look like much right now, but I can trust that it is good, because it is where the Lord has me. I don’t want to miss that. My purpose in being conformed to his image is not limited by geography, work, popularity, housing arrangement, relationship status, etc. He is working in our lives for good, our eternal good, and He is doing whatever the heck it takes to fulfill that purpose – taking us to the ends of the earth or keeping us right where we are. He is unshakably committed to this purpose; the question now becomes: Am I?