Following the Clues

When asked what they want to be when they grow up, many young kids have a quick answer based on their interests at the moment. “I want to be an astronaut!” or “I want to be a ballerina!” or “I want to be a race car driver!” While they may really, really want to be those things at that moment, the likelihood that they will achieve that particular childhood dream is slim.

Why? Because what we think we want is not always what we really want, or what we are willing to put the time and effort into training for, or what we are equipped for. And, even if we work all of those things out, it may not be what God has in mind for us.

When we get to the point where we’re deciding on our high school classes or college major, we are, again, faced with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I had an academic advisor once who encouraged me to “follow the clues.” She recommended I think through these questions:

  • What did I enjoy most as a young child?
  • What did I do naturally, just for fun?
  • What did others encourage and tell me I was especially good at?
  • Was there a common thread that might tie all of my interests and aptitudes together?
  • What did I want from a career? (High-income potential, creativity, helping others, etc.)

For me, this was a helpful thought exercise; it helped me sort things I simply enjoyed doing from things I was truly good at and enjoyed enough to do every day as a career. It also helped me consider a career that would achieve my personal desire to help people while making a good income so I could contribute to the well-being of my family. It helped me rule out options that just weren’t practical.

Then, I prayed on it because I wanted to be sure that what I had in mind was what God had in mind. When I did, I began receiving both subtle and direct confirmation that the career I was considering pursuing could be useful and pleasing to God, and the spirit of confusion that had troubled me for years was gone. When I think back about that time, 1 Corinthians 14:33 comes to mind. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” Until I had made a decision, I hadn’t realized how heavily the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” had weighed on me.

So, what’s the application for you in your life? There are several.

First, many of us have children, teens, or young adults in our lives who have this question weighing heavily on them right now. The world has changed in many ways since we were young; there is increasing pressure to perform and live up to other’s expectations and increasing financial pressures. Your children or grandchildren might really appreciate your guidance in helping them to “follow the clues.”

Second, where are you in your career? Are you feeling that God might be calling you to something new? Or, are you approaching retirement, wondering what you will do with your time, how you can use your gifts, and actively engage with others in retirement? It might be fun and informative to look back and “follow the clues” to remind yourself of the things you loved to do, naturally, when you were younger. But now that you have career experience under your belt, you might also want to adjust those original questions a bit and consider:

  • What have I enjoyed most about my work?
  • What part of my work comes easiest to me?
  • What do others encourage and tell me I’m especially good at?
  • Is there a common thread that might tie all of my interests and aptitudes together in a new way?
  • What do I want from the next phase of my career (or retirement)?

Whether we are asking these questions and “following the clues” for ourselves or for a loved one, the most important question to ask is, “What does the Lord want me to do?”

Psalm 139 says, “O Lord, you…are acquainted with all my ways (v. 1, 3). For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb (v. 13).  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (v. 16).”

This passage is so detailed in conveying the depth of the intimacy the Lord has with us. He knows us so well because He made us. And He made us exactly as He did, for His reasons, and because we have a specific role in His plan.

So, when we “follow the clues,” we are simply observing what the Author of our life already knows…how He has prepared and equipped us to do the work He has for us to do.

Christy Kohnle is a communications consultant and owner of Paradox Communications. She grew up in the Church and has been a life-long Christian, with a strong interest in Biblical financial stewardship. Christy has been managing the BOR communications since September, 2021.