Leadership Workshops Got Me Like Whoa

You are the author of your life.

You must envision your life, create the design, and make it happen.

You hold all the power.

I couldn’t help but hesitate when I heard those words during a leadership workshop this week. The career coach leading the session explained how we must be the leaders of our own lives. She said we must make moves to achieve our dreams, and we must recognize our power to do whatever we want. That it’s ultimately up to us.

If I’m honest, everything this woman was saying is my default mode. I set goals, I make them happen, and then I keep striving for more. Hell, that’s how I got to New York City in the first place. I landed internships, I networked like mad, and I worked (and worked and worked) until I landed a job and was able to relocate here. I saw myself as a writer and editor in the Big Apple, and I made it happen.

But did I really?

How much of my life is really my own doing, and how much of it is the Lord’s path for me?

This is something I legitimately struggle with. I feel like I need to have a plan. I need to figure it all out. The longer I sat in this leadership workshop, the more my anxiety level went up. Everyone volunteered their visions for the future. They shared what they’re doing to further their careers and to truly make an impact in the workplace.

Shoot, what is my plan? Where am I going with my life? Am I really called to New York City? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? What’s next for me?

If I had to guess, I would venture to say that I’m not the only 20-something with these thoughts. In fact, I bet there are 30-somethings, 40-somethings, and soon-to-be retirees going through the exact same thought process. It’s that culturally pervasive do-more, be-more mentality.

The leadership workshop brought up some good points, for sure. It’s important to think about the future and what I desire professionally and personally. I do think I can take a more active role in my job and invest in the work I’m doing. Even if it’s not where I envisioned myself, I can still embrace it and show up giving 100 percent every day. Doing so is a service to my coworkers, my company, and to God.

I have to balance working toward goals with surrendering my will to the Lord’s. I’m still learning how to do this. Because, yes, I want a fulfilling career--but when this career coach asked me precisely what that looks like, I couldn’t quite answer. I’m trying to navigate life one step at a time. I want to do good work and consider my future, yet keep my hands open to what else might come my way.

We are given free will and the opportunity to set goals. We can envision our lives, and I think there’s plenty of goodness that comes with that. I desire a fulfilling career, a thriving blog, and a way to minister to women. I desire a husband and a family. I desire health and happiness, a strong community around me, and an ever-deepening relationship with God. I can envision all of these things.

My tendency is to white-knuckle grip my hopes and dreams. And that's what this workshop made me think, that I need to make my dreams more quantifiable and then make them happen already. Except circumstances can change. When life looks different than I expected, I really struggle. For the first season of my life, I’m not exactly clear where I’m going professionally or what the next step should be. And maybe that’s a really good thing.

Maybe for the first time I’m being forced to surrender, forced to recognize I don’t hold all the cards.

I have often felt like I need to justify my existence and make my life count. For me, this longing usually shows up in the areas of career and relationships. I have this deep-rooted sense that these things will make my life complete. They will allow me to look back on the life I’ve lived with a sense of satisfaction. I need these things.

In the ever-wise words of Tim Keller:

Everybody needs to feel that they’re doing something that justifies them being here. I feel I need to earn my stay. I feel I need to say, ‘Here’s why my life counts. Here’s why my life is worthwhile. Here’s how I get a sense of validity and acceptability.’

If you really really believe what you know in your head about free justification, would you be anxious? Won’t you admit that in many cases your wealth isn’t just your wealth, your beauty isn’t just your beauty, your youth isn’t just your youth, your family isn’t just your family. They’re your righteousness. But now a perfect righteousness is revealed apart from the law of performance. It’s a righteousness that comes to you, and it’s the end of your struggle.

Can I get an amen for free justification by faith?

My life is justified and I'm made righteous by faith alone. That's grace, and that's the most wonderful gift there is. 

We can only control so much. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having desires and visions for the future. In fact, I think God wants us to dream big! The key is to hold those dreams loosely. Because as much as I love gripping the pen in my hand, the author of my life is someone way more powerful and knowledgeable than I am. He’s writing the story, and He promises to make it a darn good one.