By society’s standards, right now, I’m not doing so hot. I left school before getting my degree, I have no income, and I spend every day walking around downtown Denver talking to homeless people.
If we were to back up a year, society would have said I was surpassing all expectations. I graduated high school top of my class as an academic all-state runner and an all-conference speaker, I had an amazingly supportive and proud family, and I had my choice of almost any college in the country. Everyone thought I was on the fast-track to succeeding in the medical world, myself included. That is, until I came on a mission trip to Christ in the City during the spring semester of my freshman year of college. That was when I had a brief, but powerful encounter with the one thing I had been missing for 18 years- a living relationship with God.
I had been on this straight and narrow path for my entire life, doing everything that society, my family, and my teachers had told me I needed to do to be successful. Fortunately, God reached out His hand and showed me that He had other plans for my life. And in all honesty, it has been the most freeing, empowering, and exciting decision I have ever made. Everything I had going for me doesn’t come close to the richness that my relationship with God brings to my life. However, I am not completely free of societal pressures.
On a recent holiday break at home, I was really caught up with some of the questions I have been asked a million times, “Have you already graduated college?” “So are you going back next year?” “What are you studying?” “What do you want to do with that degree?” Until I had a close friend tell me, “You’re not on earth to fulfill society’s standards.” That’s when it hit me: my goal is to get to heaven. No human is going to be the judge. At that moment, I made the conscious decision to start doing my best to ignore what others think I should be doing and instead put my effort towards living up to God’s standard for me. God’s never going to ask me why I didn’t pick a more lucrative career; He’s not going to be disappointed in me for putting my education on pause for a year to serve the homeless. On the other hand, He is going to be concerned with the way that I’ve treated and loved His many beautiful, unique creations and gifts.
The definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” As humans, our aim and purpose is to strive for holiness so that we can have eternal life with our Father in heaven. Society’s view of success isn’t true success, it’s human success, and human success isn’t going to get us very far in God’s eyes. “In the twilight of life, God will not judge our earthly possessions and human success, but rather how much we have loved.” –St. John of the Cross.
Lord, let me strive each day to not let my mind be occupied by earthly possessions, but help me to do my best to care for and to love others as You love me. Amen.
Shannah is a first-year missionary from Pierce, Nebraska. She studied biophysics before taking a year off to be a CIC missionary, she ran 8 half marathons, going on 9, enjoys Dr. Seuss, and has a lot of trust and love for her friends.