In 8th grade, Mr. Gilchrist asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Most my classmates had real answers, but I just said “I want to be happy.”
That was eleven years ago; and since then, I’ve come to envy those who knew how they wanted their lives to go and have been able to follow the right steps to get there. My case has been very different. I am indecisive to the 100th power. To illustrate, I don’t even know what side of the country I’m going to be on in 4 weeks.
Before we go further, I want to admit/confess an insecurity swells in me at times, because I look at my peer group and I feel a little behind. So, some of what I end up writing may be influenced by this insecurity.
Nevertheless, I hate the way we answer “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We say, “I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a baseball player, a policeman, an architect, a movie star.” The problem with these answers is they lead us to equate being with doing, and so we find our value in our occupation.
We have a hierarchy of occupation; the more aspired-to jobs sit at the top, and if you’re lucky enough to grab one, then your life is meaningful, and you are a really valuable person. You’ll get interviews, and maybe we’ll build a statue of you. But if you get stuck being a truck driver, an insurance salesman, a preschool teacher, a janitor, or so on, then you likely don’t feel as valuable, regardless of how integral those jobs are to the infrastructure of our society. (Just try imagining modern America with no truck drivers or preschool teachers!) Worse yet, say you’re disabled and you can’t hold a job. How do you survive in a society that has chained your value to your occupation and thrown away the key? How many people has this ideology marginalized? The homeless, the blue-collar, the entry-level employee, the intern have all been labeled insignificant and rendered otherwise voiceless, meanwhile Khloe Kardashian has become a New York Times bestselling ‘author.’
In Genesis 1, God says,
“Let Us make man in Our image, after Our own likeness. . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (vv. 26-27, ESV).
This is the source of our value. Whether you are a bus driver or an astronaut, whether you are rich or poor; whether or not you are disabled, bipolar, clinically depressed, or whatever the case, each man and each woman is infinitely, unconditionally valuable, because he and she has been crafted by God, after His own image.
You are valuable! Your value is innate and non-negotiable. For as long as you’re a human, you’ll be valuable.
In closing, I would say. One, don’t think that I’m saying it’s wrong to have aspirations. I aspire to write novels and live a fulfilled life. Just be careful to not get wrapped up in chasing after some label, as if once you achieve it, that’s when you’ll matter. That’s not healthy. The pursuit of status is one of the things that led Adam and Eve astray in the Garden. God’s Word says they wanted to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:7). They were already like God, they were made in His image. That wasn’t enough, though; so, they sinned.
Also, we should begin by recognizing the innate value of those around us, especially of those who historically are not valued. In this, we can look to the example of Christ, who calls tax collectors and blue-collar fishermen to follow him, who touches the leprous with his own hands; and He forgive even those who nail Him to the cross.