I recently heard of a blog post titled, “Actually, You Can’t Be Anything You Want (And it’s a Good Thing, Too)”.
The title is purposefully provocative and grabs a person’s attention right away. Personally, that title caught me off guard because I use, and overuse, the phrase: you can be anything you want in life as long as you put your mind to it (or some variation). However, upon further inspection, the author makes a fascinating point, if you think “being anything you want” is a good thing, you might want to reconsider.
If we are honest with ourselves, a lot of us act on what we think we want at the time; we seek our most pressing desires over long-term benefits. Think for a moment, is that always a good thing? One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Watson, “What fools are they who, for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath.”
As broken people we are experts at self-deception, not everything we desire or are attracted to means we should pursue it. My children are small enough that when we go bowling we always ask for the bumpers because if we do not they will continuously throw gutter balls. Boundaries are a good thing as they prevent you and me from entering territory that we ought not to travel.
Consider the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. Jesus famously tells a story of a father and two sons, where the younger wishes his father was dead and asks for his share of the inheritance. The younger son acted out on what he thought he truly wanted, he left his family then squandered his inheritance on worthless pleasures. He ended up miserable. Surely he lived a life without restraints … but look at how it ended for him.
I remember reading a children’s book titled, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to my children and in the book a mouse was given his first request — a cookie — that set the mouse on a path of desire after desire, searching for something new, creating a seemingly endless stream of demands. The children’s book has several lessons, but one we can glean is that the boy in the story should not appease every request of the mouse. The boy, standing outside of and having more knowledge than, knows that the mouse will make poor choice after poor choice if allowed.
In the 23rd Psalm, we learn that “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.” We also read that the “Shepherd carries a rod and staff.”
Why? The rod and staff provide the appropriate tools that all of us need: discipline and guidance.
We all need discipline by a higher authority, someone that knows better. A North Star if you will. Also, we all need guidance by someone that loves us, someone that is willing to walk not just in front of us but beside us. (Perhaps you are lucky enough to identify someone in your own life that did this for you, if so, call them and thank them.)
Let us wrap up by thinking about that North Star one more time. The North Star is fixed in the sky directly over the North Pole. As the earth rotates on its axis the heavens appear to revolve and the sun and the moon rises and sets, but the North Star stays fixed.
May I suggest that in our chaotic world, you look to God as a gracious guide that serves us with perfect care.
Rev. Anthony Kladitis is pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Hermitage.