Welcome to Root & Vine Reflections, a monthly series where we read along with author Sarah Wells, as she shares her perspective on the books that inspire us. For March, pick up a copy of One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle. And for now, enjoy Sarah’s reflections on Jamie Ivey’s You Be You.
My children are constantly asked as they progress through school, what do you want to do when you grow up? What do you want to be? Lately, mine are focused on jobs that will make them millionaires. Not if but when I am rich, they say, I will buy a house on the beach, and I’ll buy you one, too, Mom!
More often than not, the questions I’m asking myself are the same questions they will be asked a million times: What have I accomplished? How much money can I earn? What are my career goals? How will I measure success? As Mary Oliver says, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Are these the right questions? Maybe our aspirations for ourselves are too narrow. Maybe we need to change the questions.
From Success to Faithfulness
In her newest book, author, podcast host of The Happy Hour, and now talk show host (!) Jamie Ivey writes, “I think we have been asking ourselves the wrong questions about our lives. Instead of asking, ‘Did I do enough today?’ what if we asked ourselves, ‘Did I become more like Jesus today?’ Instead of asking, ‘Was I successful?’ what if we asked, ‘Was I faithful?’”
This is the crux of Ivey’s book, You Be You, a challenge to lean into the calling God has given you, no matter what your current life circumstances, and by doing so, find success and satisfaction. We’re so busy looking into the future, trying to spy for ourselves in some faraway someday, we miss the opportunity to live a full life right now. We’re so caught up in following the stories of other people’s successes that we find ourselves standing still in a swamp of jealousy, self-doubt, and insecurity, certain we have nothing to offer compared to what other people say and do.
I’ve hit many of these potholes over the years. Through her own life stories, stories of her friends, and relevant Biblical stories, Jamie encourages her readers to remember who they are: children of God, created for a purpose that is meant to be lived out right now, right where they’re planted. Jamie helps her readers focus on true measures of success, measures that help us determine how closely we are walking with Jesus.
Changing the Tune around Calling
Since first grade, I have answered “I want to be a writer” every time someone asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I didn’t become a Christian until college. As a new follower of Christ at the age of 18, my answer clouded over with frantic concerns about what God was calling me to do. It seemed like every one of my prayers during college involved me begging God to show me, according to Jeremiah 29:11, what his plans were. If God had a plan for me, why wasn’t he making it super clear?! Maybe an English teacher? Maybe a writer? Maybe a journalist? Maybe a religion teacher? Maybe forget all of that and find a husband and become a mother? What is the one thing, Lord?!
We Christians sometimes overhype the idea of callings from God. I think a lot of us have felt the same pressure and fear that we’re not going to do what God is calling us to do, simply because we’re not sure what God has to say about the matter. We can trip all over ourselves trying to discern what God wants from us.
God’s call isn’t career-specific. We are called to be followers of Christ, no matter what we’re doing with our lives.
“And I just think that’s the secret,” writes Jamie. “By choosing first to be faithful, even amid the frequent uncertainties of exactly what God may be calling you to do, that’s how you stay true to your calling.”
Bloom Where You’re Planted
Jamie and I are of the same mind when she writes, “I want you convinced that you’ll make the greatest impact on your world when you allow Him to work through you right where He’s planted you.” Faithfulness requires turning our eyes to Jesus and walking in His ways, whether we’re walking up to a podium to speak, walking down the hall to the conference room or walking into the kitchen to make dinner.
Taking steps to live faithfully means opening our eyes and ears to the world we inhabit. It means staying open to Jesus moving in our midst. Every interaction becomes a divine encounter through which we can live out our calling.
Rebutting Our “Yeah, But” Excuses
Whatever doubts and arguments we have about whether or not we can actually be ourselves, Jamie addresses them.
Yeah, but Jamie, I don’t have talent, what do I do? “Simple Math: Maximizing Your Gifts” answers that.
Yeah, but Jamie, so-and-so is already doing the work over there—what can I contribute? “Going Green: The Trouble with Comparison” addresses that.
I desperately want to follow my calling, Jamie, but I can’t until I’m through this stage of life (with my kids, with my career, with my spouse). “Selfie Satisfaction: The Struggle for Contentment” takes care of that.
And honestly, Jamie, we’re living through a global pandemic. How are we supposed to live out our calling now, with all of this disease and discord, grief and suffering? Jamie has an answer for this too. In my favorite chapter, “Unavoidable but Invaluable: The Opportunity in Adversity,” Jamie points to all the places where the Bible shows us how God uses suffering.
Jamie writes, “…They are different now because of their suffering. They love God more. They know Him in a deeper, more intimate way than they might ever have known Him if not for going through some of the worst days of their lives. Their seasons of suffering didn’t destroy them. In fact, it might be how they truly became themselves. God walked them through difficulty and brought them out a different person—the person they were made to be.”
The tools God uses to shape you into you are probably not the tools you’d choose. Jamie invites us to embrace these seasons, because the fruit on the other side is so much sweeter. “The point is to accept trial and adversity as an irregular though inevitable pattern of life, and to choose to be faithful through it, not just around it.”
A Successful Life Is Lived Faithfully
I want to live a faithful life and lean into the calling to follow God no matter where I stand, not just for myself but also for my children. They’re already encountering adversity far beyond what I had to deal with at their age. I have an opportunity to help them see this suffering as a means to know God more, love others better, and grow through the good work God has begun in them, all the way to completion (Philippians 1:6). Through modeling a faithful life, I have an opportunity to help them see God’s calling in their own lives, no matter what they choose to do with that one wild and precious life.
If you’re ready to surrender the excuses you’ve made and start living a more satisfying life, Jamie is a passionate cheerleader for that journey. Follow Jamie on Instagram for more!