YOU’RE ENTITLED TO YOUR DREAMS

 


MYTH #4

YOU’RE ENTITLED TO YOUR DREAMS

DREAM BIG

There’s something I haven’t shared with you yet: one of the reasons I’m so familiar with the culture of self-love is because I grew up around the closely related culture of self-help.


My parents came from little, got married at nineteen and twenty, and worked hard to make sure they could provide for my brother and me a better life than they’d had. They were both entrepreneurial. As such, they were big on self-development. We listened to leadership tapes, read books on business, and went to motivational conferences and seminars when I was a kid.


And all of these things were a huge benefit to me in many ways. It was through these resources and seminars that I gained my desire to build a career in public speaking. I learned early on how to communicate effectively, how to interact with adults, and how to connect with people in a meaningful way. I also learned the beauty of entrepreneurship from my parents. I saw the perks of working for yourself, and I knew that’s what I wanted one day.


But now I see there are some troubling similarities in the self-help world to the toxic culture of self-love. Both say if you do and say the right things, you’ll get what you want. In the self-help industry, that typically means career success. Growing up, I just assumed that was guaranteed for me. We talked so much about setting goals and dreaming big in our house, and though I’d seen my parents work hard for these things, I assumed the aspirations I had would just come easily.


I saw a post by the popular athleisure company Spiritual Gangster on Instagram the other day. The tank top in the picture read “You deserve to have everything you want.”


Isn’t that the message of our day? That our mere existence entitles us to the things we desire—whatever they may be? This is a symptom of the self-centeredness that characterizes our age. Because we serve ourselves, we believe we’re entitled to our wants. This is part of thinking we’re enough—the more we accomplish, the more self-fulfilled we’ll be.


But it’s just not true. And because it’s not true, it’s a mentality that leads to disappointment.


In college, my motto was this: Never turn down a conversation for homework. I stuck to it all four years, and I have no regrets. I (barely) graduated with honors and was even chosen to give the student speech at graduation. Obviously not because I was valedictorian, but it also wasn’t based on popularity or extracurricular involvement. I submitted a speech, delivered the speech at an audition, and was chosen. I remember thinking when I delivered the speech: This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.


All of this reinforced the idea I’d unknowingly held on to my whole life: I’ll be able to do the things I want to do without having to try too hard. It was part of the belief in the lie that I was enough. That I was perfect as I was. That my heart was worth following and my “truths” worth manifesting. Though I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the long term, I was sure that things would fall into place quickly after graduation. I took a job in PR, which I was sure I would be great at and which would seamlessly lead me into the entrepreneurial life of my dreams.


It wasn’t quite that simple.”

HUMBLE PIE

When I think back to that first job as a publicist and social media manager, it’s hard to comprehend how I was as self-assured as I was. I had never written a press release before. I had no experience in client management. I barely understood how Twitter worked. And yet I was sure I could master the job within weeks.


I remember the first time I realized that wouldn’t be the case. It was seven p.m. on a Friday, and I was crying at my desk. My coworker, Monique, looked over helplessly, empathetic but recognizing that I’d gotten myself into this mess, and there was nothing she could really do to get me out.


I’d completely forgotten about a quarterly social media engagement report I was supposed to have completed for a client. I was about three months in, and my higher-up had emailed me that afternoon asking when she could expect the first draft for her review.


When I read the email, I froze. Panic set in. My heart raced, my blood pressure rose. I stared at my computer for a full ten seconds before exhaling. Shoot.


She’d even reminded me about the deadline the week before, and somehow it still slipped my mind. I responded to her email, telling her I’d forgotten but would work on it as quickly as I could. Within seconds of hitting Send, I saw my phone light up on my desk with her name on the screen.


Nothing causes millennials more anxiety than someone answering a text or an email with a phone call. I took a deep breath, walked quickly out the back door that was next to my desk, and answered the phone.


“Hello?” I said, as if I didn’t know why she was calling. I don’t remember everything that was said in that conversation. I think I’ve blocked it from my memory. All I know is that I spent the next thirty minutes in the suffocating Georgia heat listening to her say something along the lines of “You really messed this one up, and I can’t trust you.” She said that I’d shown incompetence, disorganization, and an inability to manage my time wisely. She was right.


I knew she was right. Still, my feelings were hurt. Was I really this stupid? Surely not. I was better than the person who completely forgets to do an important report despite consistent reminder emails. But, actually, I wasn’t.


There was another time I got the date wrong for a catering company that was supposed to cater an event for one of my clients. I called the client at the last minute and asked if he could switch. He emailed my boss and told her I was the least professional person he’d ever worked with in his thirty-year career. Yikes!


Needless to say, it didn’t come naturally. There were highs and lows during the two years I worked at that PR firm, but I never did hit my stride. It was hard. I worked late almost every night and still never felt that I came close to mastering my job. Something I should have been good at didn’t come easily for the first time in my life.


As hard as that job was for me, I learned a valuable lesson: I’m not entitled to success—even in the areas I typically excel in. I assumed professional success would just happen, and that I’d be fulfilled by my work automatically. I thought I was enough to get what I wanted on my own terms, on my own timeline.


It makes sense that a lot of young people—young women, especially—think the way I did. The #girlboss culture on social media and in the blogosphere makes us feel as if we have to be both obsessed with and totally satisfied by our work in order to achieve any sense of accomplishment in life. All the successful women we follow and read about seem to have found that sweet spot of passion, meaning, and income. We assume that to have a fulfilling life, we have to find it too. In fact, we think we’re entitled to it.


But not only is that kind of work not guaranteed, it’s also not necessary for work to be meaningful. Though my role as a publicist wasn’t my dream job, the work I did at the firm still mattered because I eventually learned to do it adequately and because it met the needs of my clients. I learned that I don’t have to love my job for my work to be good and important.


Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for man.” We don’t have to have the perfect job to glorify God with our work. The work that honors him only has to meet three qualifications: it’s done well, it meets a real need, and it contributes to the good of those around us.


This means that whether you’re a CPA, a botanist, a janitor, a secretary, or a graphic designer, your work can matter and bring glory to God. Glorifying work doesn’t have to earn a paycheck either. Stay-at-home moms, caretakers, and volunteer workers can still fulfill the qualifications for God-honoring work by working diligently to help those around them.


There’s a subsection of our generation that believes work isn’t inherently important: that we should only be obligated to do what brings us joy, whether it meets a market need or not. The rise of socialism has brought this idea mainstream.


At the 2019 South by Southwest conference, democratic-socialist representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remarked: “We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. . . . But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.”


AOC and those who share her mind-set view work as amoral—something we can do but shouldn’t have to. This perspective was reflected in the initial summary of her Green New Deal, which guaranteed “economic security for those who are unwilling to work.” The suggestion is that there is no inherent value in working for what we have; thus the government should meet our needs so that we aren’t “left to die” if we don’t have a job.


This is an unbiblical view of work. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to “work it and keep it,” before sin entered the world (Genesis 2:15). That means work is not a curse, a consequence of sin, but a blessing and innately good.


After Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse on Adam associated with work, that it would be painful and at times fruitless: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall bring forth for you; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”


This tells us two things about the nature of work: humans are meant to do it, but we’re not guaranteed success.


Humans were created to reap what we sow and harvest what we cultivate. We are meant to be productive, to contribute our strength, talent, and knowledge to the world in a meaningful way, whether in paid jobs, in volunteer roles, or at home. This gives us dignity and a sense of purpose. The book of Proverbs repeatedly speaks to the importance of diligence and resisting laziness. 2 Thessalonians 3:11‒12 warns against the sin of idleness and commends us to work for what we have. We are to steward our earnings as “cheerful giver[s],” as 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, so we can help those who need it. Work is ordained, work is necessary, and work matters.


Those who are physically and mentally able to work but can’t or won’t find employment suffer not just financially but spiritually and emotionally as well. Our minds atrophy. Our existence begins to feel arbitrary and unnecessary. When we aren’t contributing to society, we have the tendency to grow depressed and listless. Human beings need to be needed. Contrary to what AOC and others may say, capitalism didn’t make us this way; God did. Good work done well is both for his glory and our good.


But because sin has left creation disordered, we are not guaranteed that our efforts will always produce what they deserve. Our investments can flop, our entrepreneurial endeavors can fail, our crops may be ruined, our blogs may never gain traction, and our children may abandon the values that we worked so hard to instill in them when they were in our care. And yet God still commands us to work heartily, not for earthly recognition or success, but for him.


All of this means that work is neither nothing nor everything. Work matters, but it can’t forever fulfill us. The self-love culture in which we live simultaneously tells us that we don’t need work to have a meaningful life and that our jobs are our identity. God’s Word says the opposite: work is necessary, but it’s not enough to satisfy us. As someone who, after taking a bite of humble pie and learning not everything’s going to come easily for me, now has everything in a career I’ve ever wanted, I know this from experience.

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE

Today’s feminism tells us that a career is necessary to our happiness, but it’s just not true. Though I’d started to get the hang of my job at the PR firm about a year in, I never forgot the feeling I had had while standing on the stage at graduation. I knew I was eventually going to be doing something that would put me back on a stage in front of a microphone; I just didn’t know what or how.


This was 2015, and the presidential primaries were happening. Though this would be the second presidential election in which I voted, it was the first election in which I was really invested. A lifelong conservative, I was concerned with how our nation had changed over the previous decade. Identity politics and third-wave feminism had run amok, and from my perspective, young voters who leaned left by default were only going to make matters worse. I wondered what would happen if they were more informed about their options. I had an idea.


I was living in Athens, Georgia, at the time, and my husband and I had just got married. I remember telling him what I wanted to do one night on the couch in our old one-bedroom triplex: “I want to tell sorority girls why they should vote in the primaries.”


I came up with a nonpartisan presentation on Prezi and started emailing sorority presidents, asking if I could give my presentation at their next chapter meeting. For every sorority that accepted my request, I went.


The value I got out of these presentations wasn’t monetary. I got an audience, and more than that, the feeling that I was doing something I was good at. Though I only spoke to a few groups, it was enough to reassure me of what I’d had a hunch about before—that yes, this is what I’m supposed to do.


A few months after I started speaking to sororities, I started a blog titled The Conservative Millennial. I was still working full time, and writing about the election was just a hobby. I didn’t know where it was headed—if anywhere—but I was having fun, and I had a feeling that I should keep going.


By the end of 2016, I was posting news-centric videos to my blog’s Facebook page that were garnering up to hundreds of thousands of views. My husband’s job took us to Texas at the beginning of 2017, and it was there that I was offered a job at the conservative media company TheBlaze—but not as a host. I took a job running their social media accounts, knowing that at least having a role in the media industry was better than none.


I was soon hired as a contributor, making videos for Facebook and appearing as a guest on its shows. Fox News began booking me on their shows too, and I was continuing to speak locally and regionally to organizations about the importance of engaging young people in politics. In about a year and a half, my hobby had become a career.


In 2018, I started my podcast Relatable. My goal was (and is) to provide clarity on culture and the news from a biblical perspective in a way that’s easily digestible for women in my generation. I chose the name Relatable because I’d learned something in the three years since I’d begun this endeavor: there are a lot of women like me, women who want to know what the Bible says about the chaos that often characterizes our world.


Today I host the podcast, write, speak, and commentate on TV, and for the past year I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to write this book. I’m doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I work from home getting paid to do the few things I’m gifted at. There really isn’t much that can beat that.


But guess what? As grateful as I am for the privilege of doing what I do, my work still doesn’t fulfill me. Political media can be toxic. I’ve worked hard to keep my distance from the drama that comes part and parcel with this realm, but even day-to-day activity on Twitter is enough to make me wonder if having a career dependent on a public platform is worth it. Having a front row seat to the tribalism that plagues our country and the insanity that seems to characterize our present age can be exceedingly disheartening.


Everything else—the speaking, the podcast, the writing— is all wonderful, but the excitement of them can wax and wane, just like in any other job. Sometimes these things go well; sometimes they don’t. I have God-given abilities in these areas, but I also have a lot to learn. There are people in this realm with far more talent; there are also people in this realm with far less talent but who are presented with more opportunities. I’ve watched godly, honest people be maligned and mistreated while slimy, dishonest people have been elevated. As in any career, many things in this job aren’t fair, and success can be fleeting.


When I first started down the media path, I was anxious about everything. Anxious about Facebook comments. Anxious about followers. Anxious about TV bookings. Anxious about what other commentators thought of me. Anxious about my competition. Anxious to get the opportunities and attention I needed to stay ahead of the game.


Over time, my mentality shifted. There was just no way I could care that much about everything forever; it wasn’t sustainable. I settled into a niche that was genuine and meaningful: analyzing culture as a Christian woman. I no longer felt that I had to be caught up on the news every hour, be the first to get my opinion out on Twitter about a recent headline, or post everyday on social media. I’d found the space I wanted to occupy, and I was content to stay there.


In the fall of 2018, we found out I was pregnant, and things came further into focus. I felt in an instant just how secondary a career is to the things that truly matter. Truly, there are no better earthly titles I could hold than “mom” and “wife,” as cliché as that may sound. I’d give it all up in a heartbeat for the sake of these two roles.


love what I do. I get to talk with people like you about things that have eternal significance. I honestly can’t believe God has allowed me to do so much of what I’m passionate about. But take it from someone who has her dream job: you will get here and realize it’s still not enough.


You—your talents, your goal-reaching abilities, your dreams—still aren’t enough. If your plan is to make your success your identity, you’ll end up empty.


Maybe your dreams have nothing to do with a job. Maybe your dream is to be a wife and mom. While these responsibilities matter immensely and will bring you joy, even these can’t fill you completely. No person and no role can replace the longing our Creator alone can meet.


God made us for him, not the other way around. He exists as a king to be worshipped, not a genie who grants us our dreams and wishes. When we follow him, he promises us not to give us everything we want but something far better—himself.


He promises that no matter our job, no matter our salary, no matter our marital status, no matter our fertility or lack thereof, he will be with us. He will be our sustenance, our strength, our joy, our source of satisfaction, our ever-present Help, relentless Redeemer, compassionate Friend, and faithful Father.


In Matthew 6, Jesus urges us not to worry, to resist anxiety, to reject fear in exchange for trust in his provision. If God clothes the lilies of the field in splendor, how much more will he take care of us, people made in his image and children ransomed by the death of his Son? If he was unwilling to spare even his own Son for the sake of our salvation, isn’t he trustworthy to meet the rest of our needs as well?


This is the God our work is meant to glorify. Remembering that he is in control and trustworthy frees us from our culture’s distorted view of work as either insignificant or identity defining. On both ends of this spectrum there is an underlying lie: that you are entitled to the life of your dreams, no matter how little or how much work that involves.


God, our authority, says work exists for his glory and our good. He also assures us that though our work won’t always be fruitful, he will always be faithful. He doesn’t promise that all of our dreams will come true or that our goals will be reached, but instead he commands us to obey him and to work with excellence in whatever realm we occupy. This may include our dream job, and it may not. Either way, we can have peace knowing we’re able to fulfill our aim of glorifying him no matter what role we fill.







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