Monday, July 9, 2012

What's Best for ME Isn't Always What's Best for US

When I graduated from college, I interviewed for a job that, through a very clear answer to a direct prayer, I thought I would be offered. I knew it was the best job available for me - and it was. However, I was not offered the job - and I was grateful quite quickly in short-term hindsight. When I questioned why my answer had been SO clear (that the job was the best one for me) and yet I had not been offered the job, I was able to understand that the job would not have been best for my family - and the answer I had received was the correct answer to the question I asked. ("Is this the best job for me?")

The issue was that I was more than "me" at that point; I was part of "us".

I had a wife and three children. Looking back on the job I was offered later, it was perfectly clear that we were where we needed to be at the time - even though that job lasted FAR more briefly than I had anticipated. You see, we discovered one of my sons had a speech issue that could have caused major problems - but the mother of two of my students happened to be a renowned specialist in that exact area. She worked with him free of charge as an expression of thanks for what I was doing for her children.

What is the "miraculous" or "necessary" part of this?

This is the same child who was told in his baby blessing, for no apparent reason, that none of the physical trials he would face in life would have the power to derail him from his appointed mission in life - and the job that was best for ME would have derailed him in a significant way. My job at that point, and every job I've had since then, primarily was not about me as an individual; it was about me as an individual AND husband and father and associate and friend.

My life hasn't turned out anything like I thought it would while I was attending Harvard. My grandiose dreams from those years lie dead on the floor of my life - but I wouldn't trade my life for those dreams or anything else. I've created my life, and it is a joyful life - but it's only a joyful life because I'm committed to making it so in the context of my entire, full, complete life that includes my family, my community and my church.

Would I be more invigorated or more enlightened or anything else like that if I left my family or my community or my church? On a purely individual level, sure - I can see that possibility. I don't think I'd be happier, though - because I've created the life I want and love. I also don't know of anything I can experience outside of my faith that I can't experience inside my faith - at least nothing that I want to experience that would compromise my full life.

Name something you might want to do and ask yourself:

Can I do this without compromising my full life - and without harming those I love?

If the answer is, "Yes" - then do it. If the answer is, "No" - then ask yourself why not. If you can't articulate a good reason, then consider doing it. If you can, then don't do it.

I know that might appear simplistic, but I really believe there is MUCH we don't do that is fine to do - and there is MUCH that is pursued in the name of personal enlightenment that should not be pursued at a particular time by particular individuals in their particular circumstances.

Many of those things might be fine for others, but I'm not living others' lives. I'm living mine - which, in a very important way, is "ours".


Matthew said...

My life bears no resemblance whatsoever to my dreams when I was younger, but surprisingly it has turned out to be far better than those dreams would have. There are so many people that have come into my life only because of the unexpected turnings who have become as dear to me as family.

I think that when we give up our desire to always be in control, and let ourselves be led instead, remarkable things can happen.

Paul said...

One thing family allows us to do is to learn not to be selfish. I changed my course during grad school precisely because of the effect that my career (growing out of my original course of study) would have on my family.

Ironically, my second choice, though not nearly as personally fulfulling as the first, has allowed me to contribute to our achieving family goals that my wife and I set early in our marriage; the first career would likely have been a roadblock in a number of instances.

Patty said...

God truly has a sense of humor. I always tell people to be specific in what they pray for because God will often give specific answers... and this proves it!!
I think more marriages and families would thrive if couples would learn to be "us" instead of "I". From knowing you, I can say that your family is your top priority, and I can see how God has used some of your job opportunities to help you and your family. Thank you for sharing.

Papa D said...

Amen, Matthew. Well said.

That is exactly what has happened with my career path, Paul - as it has taken surprising twists and turns over the years.

Patty, I love the concept of two people becoming one entity - like the Mormon construction of the Godhead. I wish more members (and people in general) really understood and tried to live all of the implications of that concept. It is WAY more expansive than most people realize, in my experience.