Transitioning into Adulthood: What is ‘Success,’ Really?
For these past eight months I have been becoming more acquainted to the happy struggle of transitioning into independent adulthood. A concept once obsessively sought after as a teenager and young adult- and far too distant to be relevant as a young child- finally arriving at this place in life is kinda hard to get used to. For example, the world of finance doesn’t really hit you until you start paying your own bills. As a child, I always thought it was annoying how my mom would repeatedly remind me to conserve water and electricity, but now I hardly ever touch that thermostat and best believe my taps never drip.
As a fresh young immigrant assimilating in this strange land of independent adulthood, an alien to this new world, there are things that I am quickly beginning to discover. Here’s one of them.
“Success” might be relative.
Since I was a young child, I was brought up to believe that education is synonymous to work, work synonymous to finance, and finance synonymous to success. This logic is practical in its very essence and there is definitive truth to it in many regards. But as I worked toward this elusive success, I couldn’t help but to ask, “where in this equation does passion factor in?” What of the pursuit of God-given dreams and anointed callings? Truly, what is financial success without fulfillment and what can this definition of ‘success’ do to fix the heart? What is ‘success’ without God?
As I delved deeper into the realm of adulthood, I’ve noticed that this question becomes more consistently prominent as I see and experience first hand the ethos of my society driven by a ‘rat-race’ mentality: work to pay the bills, feed the kids, pay for tuition, buy what makes us happy, go on vacation, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I believe work is a blessing from God, and it’s an awesome thing when your work is your passion, to enjoy the fruit of your labor, and perhaps paying the bills and raising children is supposed to be one’s mission. But I believe it’s dangerous when one’s pursuit of ‘success’ controls and dictates the course of one’s entire life and hinders true dreams to flourish. What if God calls you from your job, your livelihood, and your primary source of income to serve in some obscure and dangerous alleyway of the universe? Is this still considered “success?” It certainly doesn’t fit the equation I was taught. If trading in prestige and honor is the cost of being obedient, would you do it? In desperate search of a reference point, I am reminded of the twelve disciples. How they were called to leave their homes, their jobs, their families, everything to follow Jesus. What would that look like in the modern world? It’s difficult for me to conceptualize.
However, I’m not arguing that we should abandon our worldly possessions and fast in the hills; no. I do think there is still a responsible and sensible balance that we must achieve in order to do anything, especially what God calls for us to do. After all, you can’t chase the bread and cheese if your stomach ain’t got bread and cheese. I don’t believe there is wrongdoing in using a job to further one’s passion. But when measuring success, I am learning my definition of true success is measured by the underlying motives of the heart and the stewardship of your resources and is not measured by prestige, education, or financial gain. The book of Isaiah states that our demonstrations of righteousness are ‘filthy rags’ in the eyes of the Lord; if the Lord sees even our most righteous deeds as ‘filthy,’ how much more then does God view our worldly success? I think I’m starting to learn that when rooted in God’s will, your decisions don’t really have much impact, much lest they are really your decisions to begin with (hence “God’s Will”). I can say with confidence that I would rather be unsuccessfully fulfilled than successfully broken.
But back to a previous question and I still think about this often… if you are called by God to abandon everything you worked for to pursue something completely contrary, would that be wise? What are your thoughts? What is your definition of success?