Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Conundrum of Career

It's how we relate to one another, it's how our society has programmed us to think, and ultimately, it's how we have become to identify ourselves as a people.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Think about it for just a moment. We ask our children this at a very early age, and all through their young lives they are indoctrinated with this simple, yet poignant concept. Even now, as a fifth-year college student with a few half-cooked ideas of what I should major in or pursue in my education, the question still haunts me.

What will I be when I grow up?

The best statement I have ever heard regarding that statement came from the wise mind of my own father. He said, "I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up." And he's in his forties! (Sorry, Dad.) We spend so much time and effort, pursuing that one selfsame idea, and yet...

Look at us.

Our nation is powerful, wealthy, and well off. For the most part, our country is full of successful, career-minded people who picked what they wanted to be and went for it. We send our children to college at a time in their life when they are still mentally trying to wrap their still-developing minds around who they are, and expect them to figure out who they will be. We take out loans to pay for stuff we don't need, and we rank our status based on stuff.

And the more middle-aged people I talk to, the more I realize...

...we still don't get it.

They tell me what they did when they were my age, reminisce on the "good old days," and then tell me, "When I was your age, I wish I..." and proceed to tell me their regrets. Meaning well, they dust off the skeletons in the closet, agonizing about how they wished they had pursued a degree or career path that they (rightly so) think would have financially secured them and made their life better off than it is now.

I look around me, and despite our best efforts to find meaning and success in this simple concept of "career," I still see that most Americans are highly dissatisfied with their own lives.  Divorce rates both inside and outside the church are sky-rocketing, substance abuse is rampant, the divine institution of the family is disintegrating, "problem children" in schools are becoming more and more common, and it seems the young people of my generation would rather enjoy a one-night stand than invest solely in one partner for the rest of their lives and cultivate a family. And I can't help but ask...why?

I was talking with one of my instructors after class the other day when the answer tumbled unknowingly out of my own mouth.

"It all depends on where you derive your happiness from."

As Christians, where should our joy, our fulfillment, our meaning and satisfaction come from? Yes, just like in Sunday school, the answer is usually the same...

Jesus Christ.

It's so simple, but based on the evidence I see, we have a much harder time applying this concept to our daily lives.

Are we pursuing career, or are we pursuing Christ?

Are we pursuing money, or are we pursuing meaning?

Are we pursuing pleasure, or are we pursuing people?

Are we pursuing life for ourselves, or are we pursuing love for the people around us?

It all comes back to the Gospel. Christ died for us, even though we chase things that will fade away with time, even though we turn our backs to Him, choosing to try and satisfy ourselves with stuff that we think will make us happy, all the while He is waiting for us to run to Him, with His arms spread open wide.

He has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us. Don't get me wrong, that plan might even include going to college and pursuing a degree. It might include a career. But our pursuit of a career must be for the right reasons, not for personal gain, not for money or status. Because that makes your career your justification, your purpose, your meaning in life, and trust me when I say it will fail you. When you are on death's doorstep, you will not be thinking, "Boy, am I glad I made so much money in my lifetime!" I don't know exactly what you will be thinking, but it won't be that, I can almost guarantee it.

In the end, we all die, and we all fit in the same 2' by 6' hole (anatomical anomalies aside). Skeletons are not labeled "doctor," or "engineer," or even "successful." Dead. We are all labeled as dead. Harsh? Yes, perhaps. But true.

And isn't it a little harsh, that Christ went through all that He did for us, and yet we still get caught up in this world and the empty pleasures it tries to tempt us with?

I know that my pursuit of an education should only ever be to put me in a place where God can use me for His purposes, where I can love people and store up treasures in heaven, pursuing the Kingdom of God while I have breath in my lungs. Why even wait for a career to do that, though? Because, in the end, my stuff and career and job and education mean nothing. What matters is how I used the tools God gave me and blessed me with. People are what matter, and Christ is who matters the most.

What we will be when we grow up is children of God. It is who we are now. Our identity and purpose reside in the beautiful truth that we are saved by God's grace, and that should be more than enough for us. His grace is sufficient for us, as hard as that might be to believe. It's the truth.

So go out, make disciples of God, and pursue Christ as He pursues you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Great Unknown

Up to this point in my life, I've never feared the future. Never have I worried about what I might be doing in five years, never have I sought to see ahead and predict the consequences of my choices, never have I feared that I might be choosing the wrong path...

Up to this point.

I wouldn't say that I fear those things now, but I am certainly more aware of them. Time has become my greatest enemy...and yet a very dear friend. It's like life support; I need it to survive, and without it I would die, but it has it's downfalls.

For example, my last summer at home is already half over. Don't get me wrong, I'll probably be back next summer...but what if I'm not? I've learned to expect the least, so as to not be disappointed when I get the least. Regardless, I only have a month and a half left at home before I leave, and yet graduation was a month and a half ago. There's so much left to be done, and I've only just started!

In that light, it will certainly make more sense that I am wary of the future. Each year I spend at college is a year of my life; if I change my mind about becoming an engineer, each of those years that I will have finished will be gone. Done. Never to be seen again. I may be perfectly happy with my choice to study mechanical engineering, even if I never earned a degree or finished the course work - but the time. I will have invested time into something that I may never draw from again.

Time is not like money. Money is constantly in a cycle of coming and going, earning and spending, in and out. But time? No. Time passes like water under a bridge. If you focus too much on keeping up with the current, on chasing down what once was, you'll never see what you could have had. In short, you will miss out.

These are the things that I consider as I excitedly await what September will bring. Will I meet the man God has for me? Will I enjoy my chosen field of study? Will I make new friends and grow closer to the Lord through the intense lifestyle I'm about to step into?

In all, I am brimming with excited anticipation. But the excitement is tinged with a certain amount of apprehension. I am embarking upon a journey into the Great Unknown, and I know not where the path will lead me.

~ Alex N. ~

Monday, August 19, 2013


The perfect little rock tower beside the river, a bottle hanging from a noose in a tree, a mirror nailed to the trunk of a tree by the road. The anomaly that catches your eye, the distinctly man-made thing that peacefully resides in an abnormal place – these are the little quirks that remind me so impressively of the creativity of the human mind.

It is by these amazing little things that I am reminded of God’s immense power and creativity. And how astonishing that He should choose to pass these traits on to us!! I truly believe that our minds – our imagination, our creativity, our sense of artistry – are what make us so much like Him in our design. He gave us His love for beauty, for balance, for the things that please our eyes and give us a sense of rightness.

We were created to enjoy beauty and take pleasure in it. Of that I have no doubts.

Alas, that it would be so easy for this love of beauty to be such a stumbling block for the human race! Women can stress over looks until it becomes an obsession, men can be led astray by beauty that is not kept in check, and children can be distracted by the fluttering butterfly that will draw them off the beaten path.

Find the holiness in the beauty around you. Keep beauty in its rightful place – as something to please the eye and feed the soul. Do not let it lead your eyes to look where they should go, or tempt you into wrongdoing.

There can be such a thing as too much of the good things in life. Don’t let your love for beauty draw you astray.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


As I walked into the bank to cash my paycheck, I saw there was only one teller working the front desk, and two people already waiting in line. Since my day was pretty much over, I was in no rush to get my transaction completed.

I began daydreaming, letting my mind mull over the things of the day, thinking of everything that happened. As I’m doing so, one of the guys working at the bank stepped out of his cubicle and paused by the head of the line.

“I do apologize, folks, we’re getting someone up to help with your transactions as soon as we can.” And he slipped by to get behind the desk.

Another teller came up and began speaking to the man in front of me. “I’m sorry about your wait, sir, I can help you over here at my desk.” Apparently, he had a more complex mission than cashing a check. As I stepped up to the front of the line, I heard the man grumble, “All this smoke…it’s awful…I have fires all around my place…”

My first reaction was to scoff, but I stopped myself before I could think anything negative. I glanced over at him. You’re alive, you’re walking on your own two feet, in a nice, air-conditioned building that smells as much like smoke as a skunk smells like roses. What ARE you complaining about?

I’ve really been thinking lately about thankfulness. I’m certainly not the most thankful person in the world, but more often than not I find myself smiling when I really have no reason to be. Is it because I have no reason to not be happy? Or is happy just my default emotion when there’s nothing else fighting to be seen?

It’s so incredibly easy to get caught up in life, and forget to be thankful for what didn’t go wrong in your day. Your car broke down on the way to work? Be thankful it didn’t break down when you were in the middle of the desert, or that it didn’t go up in flames before you got out. Lost your keys? Be thankful you didn’t lose your wallet! Couldn’t get to work because your child/spouse/roommate was ill and needed to be cared for? Be thankful that that person is alive and their body is fighting off a disease and not succumbing to it. And be thankful that it’s not YOU that’s ill.

It’s so easy to tell a truly content Christian from one that is not content and has lost their vision of Christ. Examine a person under stress and difficulty; what do you get? A griping, whining complainer, or someone who smiles at their problems and says, “My God is bigger than you!”

Thankfulness is not hard. It may be trying, and humbling, but it’s not rocket science.

Thankfulness: don’t ever forget to be thankful. When things go wrong, or your day gets rough, always be thankful. Find the sun behind the storm, the silver lining in the clouds. See the rainbow through the rain, and learn to smile in the trouble.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Relating and Defining, by Unconditional Love

            When you relate to other people, what do you immediately pull from your hat of life experiences, and why? Do you look at their shirt, emblazoned with some mainstream slogan like “YOLO,” and tell them the story of your last near-death encounter? Do you see the dark circles around their eyes and ask them how they've been doing lately? Or do you just smile, say hi, and wait for them to talk?
            I used to tell people about the horses I worked with and their latest escapades. Now, after I've been out there in the world and begun relating to people, I wouldn't just run up to someone and start blabbing about horses. Not that horses (or talking about them) is a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love horses and I always will. But not everyone likes horses. When I was twelve, that hit me like a freight train. “Why on earth would anyone be afraid of horses?!”
            Anymore, I've learned that it’s better to ask someone else what they’re into before I start talking about my life. That eliminates a lot of awkwardness when a subject is not seen in the same light by both parties. I mean, seriously, why should I get in a debate with someone about horses being better than dogs? To each his own. There is no ethical or moral proof that horses are exponentially superior. Therefore, I shall not bother.
            The “ask first” method also says, “I’m interested in you as a person, I find you to have worth and importance, and I want to learn more about you!” Nothing says that you’re a true, kind, caring Christian like wanting to get to know someone without judging their political or social standing.
            But once you get to that point, where the ice is broken and you have your “Conversation Buddy” engaged, what do they see?
            When I talk to people, I hope that they see Christ’s love in me. I don’t want to be giving them my sob story, trying to gain sympathy – because, trust me, I do that a lot and it drives me crazy. I want to accept people as they are, not try to change them. I want them to see that it’s really only God who can give people true joy, and that there is truly nothing special about me but His saving grace.
            So what do YOU come across as? A video-gamer, an animal lover, a Potterhead (guilty), a fan of some obscure TV shows, or maybe even a Pinterest junkie? Name your genre. I can be seen as equal parts of any of those things.
            Don’t get me wrong, those things can be used in good ways, but like money, they are neutral – neither a source of evil nor a source of goodness. They can be used to do good, or they can be used in perverse or otherwise destructive ways. But is that how you wish to be defined? By the world’s trends and popular notions?

            I for one choose to be defined by the love and sacrifice of my Savior. There could certainly be nothing nobler than that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Of Words and Fear

I’m a writer by choice and a novelist by trade. A wannabe poet and an artist at heart. Reading that first line, you would think I have no problems using my tongue, my mind, and my words to communicate with the people around me.

Well, Dear Reader, think again.

It happens unexpectedly, in the middle of a deep, philosophical or otherwise important conversation. I feel the need to respond, to speak my mind, to say something moving or relevant – but nothing comes. My jaw locks. My tongue seizes. Any sound that could have been made lodges in my throat and refuses to budge. At first it seems as though it is my mouth that refuses to work, but there are no words, no thoughts that coherently form in my mind. The link from my mind to my mouth seems cut, and I remain silent. My face takes on a blank, uninterested look and people assume I am distant and not listening.

Oh, how untrue that is!

But when I write, my thoughts flow like a stream. They bump and slide and twist through my mind, eager to be realized and manifested into words, phrases, poems, stories. They are alive and well and itching to be brought to fruition. I can speak my mind freely with a pencil in my fingers or a keyboard under my hands. Sometimes it becomes impossible to contain myself, and I must write or draw to express the emotions and feelings threatening to burst through my excited self.

I become alive with my thoughts, flowing with them, letting myself be pulled along the dreams and ideas like a branch being pulled down a stream. Sometimes, I forget my place and let them carry me too far. Other times, I become afraid, and I pull myself onto the shore before the stream takes me into unknown, uncharted territories. It is a journey, and an adventure, just to write and dream.

Then how can I have such an issue, making my thoughts known? How can it be so hard just to say a few words?


I am afraid, to step off the known path of my thoughts and to share them with another person. To bare my soul, my essence, and leave it open for prying and prodding, for inspection and observation. I worry about what may be thought of me, of how I could be ridiculed and shamed for being myself. Of how my soul could be battered by some unthinking words.

But I should not be ashamed, because of that man who loved me so unreservedly as to let his life be ended for my sake. And how can I learn, if I do not subject myself to some form of pain from which to grow and learn? Without sacrifice, there can be little gain. Without falling, you can never pick yourself back up. You cannot be made stronger if you do not realize your weaknesses.

Perhaps if I am a bit more willing to fall, to fail, to be shown weak, I shall grow. My Savior will prove Himself strong in my weakness and failures, and to be used to show His glory in such a way is my heart’s greatest desire.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Dream App...

                You’re late for school – again. You thought you had time for a quick run before you had to leave for school, but apparently you didn’t schedule correctly. After practically sprinting home, you barely had time to slap on some deodorant, grab your books, and speed off to class, tires squealing. Now, you’re stuck in class, all day, wearing your sweaty running clothes with your hair in a mess. It’s unfortunate you can’t just disappear – the last time you felt that way, you were in first grade. Brilliant.

                But fear not, dear student – you are not alone! Time management is something every student struggles with, myself included. Juggling activities between work, school, friends, and family can be tough, and it’s fairly common for students to neglect their sleep and food needs in order to make things happen.

                My dream app would be an app that allows you to plug in time slots for certain activities – activities like school, work, studying for that exam, and even sleeping and eating! Begin by plugging in what time you want to get up – for example, seven o’clock a.m. From there, it’s simple; you can get as detailed or un-detailed as you wish. If you want every second of your day to be spent doing something useful, give yourself five minutes to make your bed, five minutes to get dressed, and five minutes to feed your pets – make sure to turn on the alarm setting that causes your phone or iPod to alert you when you should be changing or getting ready to change activities. You can even customize your schedule day to day, week to week, or even month to month by accessing the calendar, where you can add special events and such.

                If you’re feeling lucky, you can go to the “Automatic selection” tab and simply plug in the activities you need to do in a day and give the app a certain amount of time you want to be spent on that activity. Tap the “Schedule” button and watch as the app arranges your activities, giving you time to sleep in, prepare healthy meals, and even a block of free time to spend doing whatever you want!

                The possibilities with this app are endless. You can customize your sleeping and eating times, class times, and even time slots labeled for extra-curricular activities. With the alarm setting you can make sure to be everywhere on time, including those parties you just can’t miss. Gone are the days spent scrambling for books, keys, purses and wallets and speeding through school zones.

                With this dream app, get ready to sleep as much as you need, study like you never have before, eat healthy, exercise, and kiss your tardiness goodbye!
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