500 Words Per Day: Thinking about the Pursuit of Ambition

Eugene Peterson wrote, "The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God." (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 335)

I wish I could disagree. I wish I could say that when I first read this book in 2005–nearly 10 years ago–that I would have remembered that single line, practiced it, and preached it. I'm sure I did preach it, but upon reflection I think I was far too naive in my thinking that merely standing behind a pulpit on Sunday mornings was enough. I think sometimes I invented an idea of what strength was–standing up under the constant pressure of critics. This was my suffering; my cross. I think my failure was complete when I didn't wait.

Not knowing what else to do with a lack of employment, a mortgage, and no prospects on the horizon, I took the easy way out and went back to school and earned my masters degree. I had an ambition; I didn't want to wait. I did it; I did it well. I finished the course and earned my degree. I got a job shortly thereafter, and here I am. But at what cost?

Now I am doing nothing but waiting. In all my pursuit of safety, education, and security I found nothing satisfactory or substantial. Instead I have found a lonely life because in my pursuit I forgot to wait. Said another way, in my impatience I forgot to pursue the right way. I ran and ran and ran and ran. Lived up to a promise I made that I would not pursue another preaching ministry after the last one. Now here I am–every single day going over and over in my mind why my ambition superseded that of Jesus.

Here I am wondering, often aloud, why I took the path I took instead of just praying and waiting and hoping. I wonder about what my ambition accomplished…since I continue to find nothing but frustration at being at the mercy of someone else's plans for my life because that's what life has become for me. I am no longer in control of my life, my plans, my ambitions. All my ambition got me was a daily frantic concern for myself, a daily hurry to check LinkedIn, a daily frenetic pace to accomplish this or that, and a daily fever pitch hurry to check job postings.

Frankly all it is doing is making me old. And tired. Sadly, all those things that mattered most to me are gone. What I miss is fellowship. God's people. Bible study. Worship. Life has become all about me for the last several years disguised as self-righteous suffering. I pursued myself, instead of righteousness, and that's what I got.

Profound unhappiness.

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