Move Beyond ‘Me’

The students in my Gifted and Talented program had just spent about fifteen minutes working on their list of 10-15 personal goals they have for their life when I then wrote the second part of the writing assignment on the oversized whiteboard:

Write 10 goals/purposes/desires that God has for your life.

I began to tell a story. “When I was about 20 years old and I was a student in the university – I wasn’t yet a teacher or a mom, hadn’t moved to Honduras yet, just a young student taking classes – I met with my mentor one afternoon to discuss and discern the direction my life would take. She had me write down a list of personal goals – just like what I just had you do.”

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A couple students seemed suddenly bored, probably thinking This is a ‘be-all-you-can-be’ lecture, a ‘reach-for-the-stars’ encouragement speech. Heard it.

I continued, praying that something that I was about to say would penetrate beyond their rising and falling mental activity and settle in their heart.

“Well, I wrote my list and thought it looked pretty darn good. I handed it to her, proud of my neat list of personal goals, and, upon looking on it, she said, ‘Jennifer, this is terrible!’”

The wandering eyes suddenly snapped up to mine. They looked somewhat confused, but at least now they were paying attention. “She said, ‘This list has a major problem,’ and I looked at my mentor, not sure what she meant. She then told me, ‘Jennifer, each goal you have starts with ‘I want…’ I want this. I want that. I, I, I. What does God want?”

A light sparked in a few of the kids’ eyes, and I could suddenly read their minds: Oh, maybe God doesn’t want me to be a billionaire soccer star who only drinks Coca Cola, watches television all day and never gets old…Whoops.

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“My mentor’s comment that day has shaped so many of my decisions since then. It’s not bad to want certain things, to have personal desires – God’s word says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will fulfill the desires of our heart! – but we need to move beyond our own desires to ask the more important question of: What does God want from me?”

Now they were listening. Thank you, Father. I continued pacing, as much to keep up my adrenaline levels after not having slept well the night before as to capture these pre-teens’ short attention spans.

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“Kids, the whole world is stuck on this question.” I point, using the dry erase marker in my hand to indicate the first question. “But it’s a trick. If I only look for what I like and what I want and what pleases me, we all know where I will end. A life filled with me, me, me ends in destruction.”

“And the good news is that if we move beyond the first question and begin the fervent and life-long search of God’s intended purposes in and through us, it’s much more fulfilling, and it leads us into abundant and eternal life!”

“If this question seems extremely difficult to you, I understand. It would have been for me, too, when I was your age. In fourth grade my life goals included owning a pet shop with a giant open-dog’s mouth built on the front where the shoppers would come and go. But don’t give up in the search! God’s will for us isn’t discerned one time in a wacky school assignment; keep discerning it everyday – next week, when you are in high school, when you’re thirty years old, when you can no longer walk!”

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After encouraging the kids along in the task, I later read their responses. A ten-year-old girl wrote of the goals she senses that God has for her life:

  1. Help the sick
  2. Give food to people who live in the street
  3. Pray a lot
  4. Help handicapped people
  5. Not love money
  6. Be a doctor
  7. Not be racist
  8. Not be a liar
  9. Love everyone like I love myself
  10. Not steal

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A fourteen-year-old girl answered the same question:

  1. Well, I believe that my purpose will be to sing and show through the music God’s love
  2. Be a mom to teenagers and children who need support
  3. Teach music or something else
  4. Have my own children and guide them on the correct path
  5. Be a counselor to people who need support
  6. Be a writer of encouragement for teenagers
  7. Listen to people’s stories who have suffered in this life…

 

 

An eleven-year-old boy wrote the following:

  1. Preach His Word to the whole world
  2. Help the needy
  3. Never be proud
  4. Do what is just
  5. Obey my parents
  6. Have a clean marriage
  7. Be faithful to Him and to my wife…

 

A ten-year-old boy:

…To not think that what I have is mine, To be humble, To know Who created me…

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