The Picture Not The Plan

Things are happening.

Hard things. Beautiful things. Disorienting things. Conformational things.

So many people I love are in the wilderness right now, wandering from one pile of rocks to another trying to find a trail to purpose and happiness. It’s heartwrenching to watch, seeing these beautiful souls hoping to outrun their anxieties and desperately discover (read: manufacture) a path to SOMEWHERE.

During a conversation with one of my most dear of these wandering souls today, as she spoke of her anger and confusion and her yearning for God to just FOR HEAVENS SAKE tell her what He wants her to do!?!?!?, I was reminded of this quote I heard Bob Goff say when I heard him speak to a captivated room just weeks ago —

“God doesn’t have a plan for your life written on a piece of paper,  folded up in His pocket, He just has a picture of your face.” 

If that doesn’t fly in the face of all the cookie-cutter Christianity we’ve been handed, I don’t know what does. And no, I don’t find it contradictory to that oh-so-often quoted (tattooed, pinterested) verse of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…”

The point we’re missing, the point Bob makes, is that God doesn’t have a WHAT for you to do in your “one odd and precious life” (thanks Anne), He has a WHO for you to become. There’s no career path, no unfolding circumstances, no dictated series of events that He has cosmically ordained for you to navigate and check boxes next to. No, instead there is a picture of who you are, the unique, singular you, that He wants to see blossom and grow into its most fully developed beauty, the you He DREAMED you would be and eagerly waits for you to ask for. The paths to arrive at that you are endless. Over my life, I’ve wanted to be a singer, a psychologist, a marine biologist, a wedding planner, and several other wildly different occupations. I’ve asked myself a thousand times or more, “WHAT am I supposed to do with my life? What is that one path I’m supposed to find that will be the answer to all my prayers and dreams and make me happy?” It wasn’t until today that it crystalized for me that there is no one path, and that literally any path can lead to the same end, because the outcome is about WHO I am becoming, not the circumstances that get me there. 

During a recent sit down with my team, we talked about how special the environment we created in our workplace was, and how it came about. I shared with them that for me, I cannot separate the developments in my pursuits of personal growth from my work life, as that was where I spent the majority of my time.  If I was experiencing personal development, but then setting it aside for the 60 hours (ok sometimes 70, and 80) a week I went to work, what was even really happening? And since my personal growth over the last two years has been intentionally focused on empathy and strength and compassion, it was inevitable that the culture I was responsible for would echo those things, which is what we saw happen. My team found purpose in their work, and felt empowered to make it happen. In an article I read about Mark Canlis (the same great leader I referenced last post), he was asked if he felt his dedication to his work distracted him from his family or faith or personal growth, and I fell in love with his answer. 

“Work isn’t a distraction from becoming who I want to become, it’s a vehicle for it.” 

Isn’t that amazing??? Isn’t it wonderful to look at your life so holistically, integrating the development of WHO you are through WHAT you do, rather than the other way around?

As I drove away from the conversation with that friend earlier today, this realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I am not here in this life to figure out WHAT to do with myself, I am here to become the most beautiful version of WHO I am. The rest will take care of itself. If I believe what Mark said above, that work is a natural vehicle for that evolution, then letting my dedication to personal growth infuse my professional opportunities cannot have any other outcome than to deliver me into the work that will both reflect and support that growth. And if I’m doing work that eminates from the truest, most beautiful center of the human I am meant to be — full of grace and joy and wonder — it cannot have any other outcome than bettering the lives of those around me and the world we live in. 

And this is exactly the life that is unfolding for me now. My life is literally overflowing with people who want to work with me and connect with me because of the person I’ve become. These last few years I was given the opportunity to fall apart so I could rebuild, and when I did, I found that I wanted to be (and felt the NEED to be) strong and vulnerable and brave and joyful, so I set about the work of becoming that. I filled my life with people who lived those traits themselves, I buried myself in books by people on similar journeys, I dedicated time to the places and activities that multiplied those feelings in myself. Now, I’m reaping the harvest of that work. The kindred souls that have seen that work at, well, WORK, have leaned in to me. They are the ones who have laid down the What of their lives and picked up the Who instead. They are responding to the personal growth (the who) I infused into my professional life (the what), and their responses are creating a future with possibilities I never expected.

Chase character, not titles. Seek identity, not position. Decide what kind of human you want and need to be, identify the you that evokes rest and joy and passion in others, and lean into that. The work will come. The work will demand you, and no one but you. Trust me on this one. 

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