07 October 2013

Looking for the Perfect Fit (and not finding it)

As usual, I'm about to give advice on something I know nothing about. But I've been around long enough to be convinced that I am right.

Now that we've reached the 21st century and we're practically at the pinnacle of human evolution, people are pretty sure that they've got life figured out.  If you want to be successful and happy, find the schtick you love and don't stop doing it till the day you die. To those who actually succeed in getting their dream-job, their dream-spouse, their dream-home, and their dream-car, we have only one thing to say:

"You're lucky."

As if superlative happiness can only be enjoyed by those select few to whom things just "work out" for.  What I've heard more than anything in reference to a successful marriage is "I'm so glad it worked out for you." Aren't you a lucky duck? After all, happy marriages don't just happen to anyone.

What our culture is telling you is that if you just find the standard of living that suits you perfectly, you can live up to your fullest potential as a human being.  I know so many high-school seniors who squirm and fret over all the countless colleges to choose from, because somewhere in the back of their minds they are convinced that if they choose the wrong one, they're screwed for life.

Colleges know this too. After I took the PSAT, my inbox got swamped with all sorts of spam from universities saying things like "Joseph, University of Montana wants YOU!" and "Tulane needs UNIQUE talent!" and so on and so forth. One of them wanted me to fill out a personality quiz so that their supercomputer could match me up to the "college of my choice".  And how does my personality have anything to do with this?

Not to mention that there are well over two-hundred majors and careers to choose from, and you are told that somewhere, somewhere buried deep in that pile of knowledge, there is one path that was made just for you.  It's your THING, and if you look hard enough, you'll find it.

The same mind-set is behind modern courtship. Take online dating. You're asked to set up a profile for yourself. Punch in your hobbies, your likes, dislikes, your political views, and click, click, click! You're paired up with somebody on the other side of the world who happened to punch in the same thing.  And then people start doing a little jig in front of their computer screen saying "She's the one! She's the one for me!" Predestination at its finest.

But it doesn't work. My sister Hannah was elated when she got a job teaching both piano and gymnastics. It was two of the things she loved best, and now she was getting paid for it. It was the perfect deal.

But it didn't turn out that way.  Later she told me, "there's something you lose when you get paid to do something you love. It's no longer something you love. It's work."

And so it is. Don't get me wrong, Hannah still loves piano and she still loves gymnastics.  And yes, she'd be a much happier pianist then she would be a dentist.  ("Open wide now"...gzzzzzz gzzzzzzz!--I personally don't see how anyone could have fun doing that). But don't start thinking that "doing what you love" means fun and games for the rest of your life.  God cursed Adam to toil and sweat, and if we're not toiling and sweating, we're not really working.

Perhaps the earlier generation was on to something when they put duty before choice.  Back when a girl married not because it ensured her personal happiness, but because she did what was best for her family. Back when boys became farmers not because they wanted to, but because their fathers were farmers before them.  Am I suggesting we try to live the way they did back then? No.  But maybe choosing the perfect college isn't as big a deal as we thought it was.

If we're expecting the world to give us what we want, we're expecting too much.  Our sustenance comes from Christ alone--if we're counting on anything else for that sustenance, we're only going to be disappointed.

So what do we base our choices on? I haven't lived long enough to test my theory, but here's what I think. I think we'd all be a lot better off if we're looked for a complete education rather than a specialized one, a sturdy house rather than an expensive one, and a good spouse rather than the "right" one. Not the one that is right for us, but the one that is right whether we like it or not. The rest, I think, is up to God.

-The Minstrel Boy


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