I had been talking with a college freshman who had been “strongly encouraged” by his mother to come see me. She was concerned that while her son was doing well enough in school, he was pretty withdrawn and disconnected from the family. After a surprisingly interactive dialogue with this young man about life in general and school in specific, I suggested I could boil down the issue to a few short phrases:
“You are using your scholarships and earnings to take classes you do not want to take, to get a degree you do not want to get, to eventually do a job you have no interest in doing.”
He just looked at me and said, “Yup.” I asked him why he was pursuing all this if his passions and interests lie elsewhere. He simply told me it was what his parents expected; that his father would not even discuss or consider other options; and that he did not want to disappoint them and upset them – basically, he was letting his parent’s needs (and fears) to control his life.
I expressed my concern that this family dynamic could cause him to believe that who he is and the things he desires don’t matter; or worse, are fundamentally bad. The temptation then would be to just “stuff it and move on.” I shared that I had run across this very same sequence of phrases early in my ministry and that the young lady in that situation had been managing her beliefs and stuffed emotions with bulimia and it had almost killed her.
However, I wanted to instill hope by letting him know that the same young lady had discovered her identity in Christ, been told by Him how valuable she was to Him and had been encouraged by Him to pursue the passions He had instilled in her; and once free from the bondage of believing she was responsible for other people’s happiness, she went on to become a teacher, an artist, and a happy wife and mother.
This scenario is not unique to students in college. Recently I had a wife tell me that her childhood and her marriage have taught her that who she is as a person is inadequate and wrong, and that what she wants and desires in life are bad and should never be spoken out loud. After decades of stuffing this, she is about to explode.
Too often the events of life present opportunities for us to embrace the lie that who we are and what we want is always wrong – and who everyone else and what they want is always right – so we live to please others so they can be happy.
Folks, there is only one who by His nature is always right and His name is Jesus. It is from Him that we receive our identity, our acceptance and our value – and from those truths come a desire to live a life that pleases Him. In Him is freedom and in His perfect love there is no fear. The joy of my ministry is introducing people to the God who loves them lavishly and then walking with those folks to the very presence of the Lord to receive the truth about who they are in Him.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ live in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)