I’ve been thinking a lot about motivations for things and how that affects what we do. And this quote (I’m not sure where it’s from, but I’ve heard it and read it several times) strikes me as a statement about humility and purpose as defined by God.

Here’s my school situation currently: I’m planning on graduating in December. Which is…very soon. Meanwhile, I’ve collected quite a group of professors/instructors who adore me and flatter me on a regular basis. I’m saying this as a blunt statement of fact, not as a boast–it’s actually a little embarrassing to me! Just saying that this is the situation. Well, their next question after some statement to the effect of “you’re so brilliant” (yikes)is “What are you doing next? You’re going to grad school, right?! What are you going to do with your life?

In those moments, it has become VERY important to remember: I have nothing to prove. I have no one to impress. I have only One to please.

Because just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should. And purpose and achievement in the eyes of these wonderful people is not the same as it is for me.

For example, I told the professor who introduced me to the world of linguistics research that I am planning to become a Bible translator and I’m probably going to go to one of two specific schools to get an MA in Linguistics and Bible Translation. She responded, “And there’s a market for that?” and “Just make sure to keep your options open. You have so much potential. Our discipline would miss out on a gem if you didn’t go and get your PhD.”

I love her to death, and she has been a huge blessing to me, but this conversation stuck in my mind as a reminder of the stark contrasts at play here.

My definition of success is not tied to monetary gain, and it’s not tied to “the market.” It’s not defined by achieving the highest level of education in a given field. It’s not even related to “generating meaningful knowledge” as a researcher. My definition of success is very simple and very testable: Glorifying God in whatever I do (1 Corinthians 10:31) by following His will and walking worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1)

I asked a friend a question a couple weeks ago: “What do you do to remind yourself why you started?”

He said: “Why you start and why you stay don’t have to be the same thing. Sometimes, you won’t remember why you started, but there are clear reasons why you stay.”

Why did I start college here? Because I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I needed a degree in something. Business, here I came, and I started my degree early. A year later, I transferred to this university across the county from my house because, despite all my shock at this disruption of my plans (to finish my degree at a Christian college), it seemed God had a plan for me to be here. I had no clue what the plan was, but I was looking forward to seeing it revealed. I agreed to try studying here for a year.

Why am I still here? Because by the end of that year I had seen countless reasons, small and big, that God meant for me to be here. I had found linguistics and knew it was for me. I had begun to join a community. I had found a mission field among the students, faculty, graduate students, and staff. I had found opportunities to grow–in knowledge and faith.

And so I liked what my friend said about staying for a different reason, because you’ve changed as a person. But I also think it’s important to remind myself of the core reason I started here… because God called me to. And even though the circumstances have changed so much, and the path ahead is much different than I expected, the purpose is still to follow God’s will. Not blind ambition. Not the expectations of others.

So in situations that come up, where others’ expectations seem so flattering and alluring… I need to remind myself:

I have nothing to prove. Not due to my “non-traditional education background” (of homeschooling or how I started my degree), not due to my personal pride.

I have no one to impress. “If I boast, it is only in the cross…” (Galatians 6:14). I am not to further my own reputation, but to shine as a light so others see Christ in me. I am to live so “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

I have only One to please. I am not here to please myself. I am not here to please others and meet their expectations. I am here to serve God, and to make choices that please Him.

It’s humbling. Oh, yes, it’s humbling. It means sometimes causing confusion and disappointment for people I really care about and respect. But it also provides an opportunity when up comes the question of “why.”

“Why would you limit yourself like that?”
“Why would you give up the opportunity to do a fully-covered PhD?”
“Why would you want to pursue a ‘career’ that requires you to fundraise?”

“Why would you make that kind of sacrifice?”

In those opportunities, I have the chance to fulfill a tiny bit of my purpose, right here, right now, and say:

“Because of the incredible God I serve. Who sacrificed His own Son that I might live, and gave me the privilege and responsibility of bringing that news to others… to those who are invited to eternity, but can’t yet read the invitation.”

5 Comments

  1. Wow, Amanda! Thank you for sharing the journey that God’s been taking you on. Recently, I’ve decided to pursue an associate’s degree of Bible, and God’s been protecting me from a lot of the backlash I could be experiencing, but there are still times when I get those questions and I know I will continue to, even from my Christian friends. Why waste two years of your life studying the Bible, especially since you don’t feel called into missions? How is that going to be a marketable or profitable degree?

    And I have to answer in the same way as you’ve realized, remaining true to what I feel God’s called me. I know that this time spent grounding myself in God’s world and being discipled is something that God can use in my life wherever He puts me and in whatever career I might chose later. And God’s commission to His disciples is for all believers whether I’m called to the front-line mission field or not. 😀

    I’m curious if you already have an idea what mission organization you would go through for to be a Bible translator. Have you ever heard of Ethnos360 missions? Their heart is so for missions and reaching unreached people groups with the gospel in their own language. https://ethnos360.org/about

    Karis
    1. Hi Karis,

      Thanks so much for sharing! I think studying the Bible will never be a waste of resources, because God’s Word gives us eternal reward. 🙂 How exciting for you! I am sure it will be a blessing, and hopefully your friends and others will see that in you.

      I have not yet decided which mission organization I would like to join, but I have looked into several options. Ethnos360 looks familiar, but I haven’t looked into it in detail, so thanks for the link! I will add it to my list to look into more later.

      Thanks again for commenting and have a blessed day!

      1. Hi Amanda,

        Thank you for your encouragement! I’m praying that it will indeed be a blessing and a valuable 2 years of my life.

        As I mentioned this blog post to my mom, she instantly said, “Has she looked into Wycliffe Bible Translators?” 😀 I know they work with multiple mission organizations and in many different ways. https://www.wycliffe.org/

        I’m always excited to see those being faithful to the call God’s given them to go into missions. Recently, those have been the friends giving me the most support and encouragement in deciding to go to Bible college.

        Karis
  2. Thank you for this post, Amanda. Your words took me back to the decisions and conversations I’ve had over the years – when I prepared to graduate high school, when I prepared to graduate college (with an English degree and no immediate plans to be a teacher), and when I graduated from seminary last year. Even now, this is still a topic I process a lot for myself, and since I work in an Christian academic environment, I talk with current students about how this relates to their lives on a regular basis, too. There’s great wisdom in listening to wise counsel, but like you said, we ultimately live for One. Our greatest treasure is Christ, and our greatest mission is to make disciples of all nations. Even when our path looks a little different.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and your gift of writing!

    1. Anna! Thanks so much for commenting. You have been an encouragement and an inspiration throughout the years! 🙂

      Absolutely, there is great wisdom in listening to wise counsel, and I am so grateful to have plenty of those people in my life. But it is so important for me to recognize that even though it is right and good for me to respect the instructors God has given me, I must still remember that there are foundational differences in our worldviews and definitions of success. This has been one of the areas of greatest growth in my life since I started going to college here, I think: learning how to live life with others outside of my “Christian bubble” in a balanced way. I have learned that I ought not automatically disregard everything they say, nor should I accept it all without question or prayerful consideration.

      Thank you for replying! <3

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