Maybe you want to be a pilot – but your eyesight is too weak.
Maybe you want to be married – but you’re still single.
Maybe you want to go to uni – but you can’t afford it.
Maybe you want to be a six foot blonde with a golden tan. But you’re an short brunette and you burn in the sun.
Maybe you want to be a gnu with green eyebrows. Maybe you really, really, really want it. Well, sorry – but it’s not enough.
I’m all for encouraging one another – but there’s such a thing as false hope. And ‘you can be anything you want to be’ is not a nice thought or an jolly motivation. It’s damaging. Here’s why …
1. It sets us up for failure.
Because by ‘anything,‘ we don’t usually mean ‘working in a job that pays the bills but doesn’t set the world alight.’ Or, ‘muddling through with tricky relationships’. Or ‘reasonably content, but knackered.’
What we mean is – ‘better than most.’ ‘Outstandingly beautiful, wealthy, talented, successful.’ Ticking all the boxes: personal, professional, spiritual, physical.
But by definition, ‘better than most’ means fewer than most. The vast majority of us will not be rocket scientists or spacemen. We will not feature on the cover of ‘Men’s Health’ or ‘Vogue.’ We will not marry the partner of our dreams, raise the Waltons or save the whales. And that’s okay. Unless of course, you think you deserve these things. Or that you need them to be accepted. In which case, your life becomes a non-stop treadmill of comparisons and need.
2. It makes us feel guilty and ashamed
You can be anything you want to be – you just have to want it enough.
Tell that to the cancer patient. The infertile couple. The guy who’s been made redundant.
Maybe if you wanted it a little more. Maybe if you just put in a bit more effort.
And if you don’t? Well, you weren’t trying hard enough. The buck stops with you.
3. It’s all about Us.
YOU can be anything YOU want to be.
At first, this sounds quite nice. Doing what I think is best. Working as hard as I can – for me. Isn’t that the key to happiness and freedom? I mean, look at all those celebrities with time and resources to make themselves perfect. Happy as pigs in muck. No addictions or relational problems or sadness. Sheer unadulterated joy.
‘You can be anything you want to be?’
No, you can’t.
But here’s the (gospel) truth…
You’re totally accepted – in all your mess.
You’re special – because Jesus has done the wanting and the work.
You’re purposeful – but He tells you why and He shows you how.
You are not the centre. He is. And when you lose yourself in Him, you finally find yourself.
And as for striving for ultimate success…gospel living is about finding contentment, wherever you are. “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)