Am I Successful Enough?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Can I be real with you for a second?

Okay, cool.  Thanks.

The truth is, I don't consider myself a particularly successful person.

Most days, my successes consist of relatively minor things: I pry myself out from under my warm covers, which often feels like a victory in itself.  I shore up the resolve to work out for thirty minutes.  I mix some prepackaged instant oatmeal with some boiling water, a sliced banana, and a pinch of cinnamon, and marvel at my skills in providing for myself.  Maybe I churn out a new blog post, pick up some groceries, or drop off some donations at Goodwill.  I go to work for a few hours.

None of these feel like particularly earth-shattering accomplishments.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that struggling to accept I’m where I’m meant to be is a subject I’ve broached before. 

Because I'll log in to Facebook or scroll through my Instagram feed, where I’m greeted with status updates and photos from people I went to high school and college with, people who have cozy 9-to-5 office jobs, a comfortable salary, an engagement ring – people for whom everything seems to be coming together.  And I look around at my tiny, ordinary life, a life that aspires to be so much more, and I can’t shake the shame and embarrassment of feeling like I should be more successful already. 

There’s a little contrary voice in my head that pipes up in the quiet moments when I don’t want to hear it.  Right now, it’s whispering this quote by Mother Teresa: “God has not called me to be successful.  He has called me to be faithful.”

Those are really, really hard words to swallow.  Because if I’m being completely honest, I want success!  I want the six-figure salary, a career doing work I’m passionate about, vacation homes in Hawaii and London, a husband and a family, a crew of girlfriends to accompany me to happy hour at luxe wine and cheese bars.  I want a deliriously happy existence, the kind of life that’s been lived with utter joy and to the fullest extent.  Of course I do.  Who wouldn’t? 

But that is the kind of success that speaks of selfishness and personal glory.  And I’m pretty sure that on my dying day, when I’m standing before those pearly gates in Heaven, and Peter is asking me to justify my entrance (I imagine this to be something like that dreaded interview question, “Why should we hire you?”), the things I did for myself in the way of achieving personal success will count for little against how I served others. 

So.  That is what I need to remind myself of.

That it’s not wrong to want certain things for myself, to have goals and dreams and visions for the future.  I just tend to forget in the pursuit of these that my life should be guided by what I can give to my fellow humans.  That my mission in this world should be primarily shaped by how I can love and serve the greatest amount of people.  That I shouldn’t leave this earth without having somehow made it better not just for me, but for others, too.

And sometimes that means substituting faithfulness for success.

It means humbling myself to the ordinary, everyday work available to me right now, to myriad opportunities to love and serve and give of myself to others in seemingly minor ways.  From these small acts of faithfulness might indeed spring the success I yearn for in the future, but even if it doesn’t come, that will be okay. 

And... wouldn't a faithful life, one marked by love and light, still be considered successful in its own right?

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