Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can Dreaming Big Lead To Downsizing?

I often hear people talk about doing (or having done) great things for God. No less than the great missionary William Carey said, "Attempt great things; expect great things."

But can dreaming big lead to downsizing? I believe so.

The Paradox

For me, dreaming big for God means giving up my big dreams for myself. My dad would have wanted me to follow in his footsteps as an eye doctor and inherit his practice, which would have been the most lucrative path for me to take. Otherwise, I could have pursued foreign service or a professorial chair. But in what my elders might call "youthful idealism," I decided to walk in the direction I thought God was calling me, and that happens to be teaching high school boys.

Romantic sentiments aside, let's admit that a high school teacher really is a downsize--socially, intellectually and financially--from being a top-notch doctor, or diplomat, or professor. Thankfully, I'm not alone in this. Other people have given up the prospect of being a successful professional in order to pursue full-time ministry, or have chosen to distance their businesses from influences that would lead to compromise with the world, or other like things.

What's Normal for a Christian?

God's calls Christians to pursue different paths, and His love for us and approval of our actions cannot be measured by bank accounts or the number of people who listen to what we have to say. Sure, given a choice, I don't think anyone would prefer to be a Jeremiah over a King David, or a Noah over a Jabez. But apparently there isn't a normative lifestyle for Christians, regardless of what many Evangelical "health and wealth" preachers would have us believe. God calls some people to be rich and others to be content with enough, but He always calls us to be generous and humble and fruitful.

Dreaming big can sometimes mean standing on the shoulders of giants. It can also mean gathering mud to make into a beautiful pot.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.... You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  -- John 15:5,16

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  1. Your story brings to mind the Buddha's own life story: a prince leaving his riches behind to lead the life of an ascetic, in pursuit of enlightenment.

    If being a teacher is your heart's desire, then go for it. There are many young people who pursue careers just because those were the most convenient for them, without ever considering how they, in those careers, can impact society. That is actually the norm.

    Your career plan indeed sounds idealistic, but in a time when people put more premium on material things than on integrity and human relationships, the likes of you are what the world badly needs.

    So, will I see you at the Ateneo or Claret someday? And by the way, why teach only high school boys? How about high school girls? :)

    Keep writing!

  2. Thanks for your encouragment, Raffy! I'm still not sure about what schools I'll be applying to, but I'll let you know once I've made my list.

    Why teach only high school boys? Well, it's a bit hard to explain, but basically I think that in our society, boys need a lot more help coming to grips with true Christian faith than girls do (personal experience: church services and ministries are filled with women, not men!). Besides, I think high school girls are crazy. XD