When I grow up…

My daughter will begin her first year of high school next year. I’ve watched as she has transformed from the little girl who played with dolls to a beautiful young woman.

Last week  she shared her “four-year plan” which is the outline of the courses she will take during high school. This is not new territory since my oldest son is already in high school. Next year he will move to the High School campus.

(Note: The Boise School District divides students according to a grades 7-9 Jr. High model but defines High School as grades 9-12.)

There has been a great deal of conversation about education in Idaho for the past couple of years. The sad news is that Idaho ranks among the lowest in education – both in dollars spent per student and academic success. Efforts are being made to improve the state of education here. However I digress…

What I intend to ponder is the notion of vocation. I’ve been part of several conversations about vocation with a variety of people.  There have been the talks with my kids as they consider high school.  There’s always been the admonition that my kids will go to Duke University for college. (Cue the groan from my kids and the cruel, “Oh no I’m not!” response.)  There was the conversation with the college Jr. who is gifted in many areas and for whom success is behind whatever door he opens.  There has been the ongoing conversation with a seminarian about her sense of call.

When my youngest son was graduating from pre-school he was asked as part of the “graduation ceremony” what he would like to be when he grows up. Each child was given the opportunity to share and there were the predictable responses – nurse, fireman, princess – until they came to my son who very boldly announced that when he grew up he wanted to be Yoda!  That’s my boy!

Nearly five years later, I am still captivated by his response and reminded of the ways that each of us responds to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I am all the more drawn to this question as I consider the vast future that lies ahead of my kids.

The last time I was asked this question, I was beginning my third year of seminary. The Dean of the Faculty was my advisor. He invited me to his office where he posed…the question. What do you want to do when you grow up?

If only I had possessed the imagination of my son at the time then I could have said something clever. Rather I focused on what I thought I wanted the Dean to hear. I talked about being interested in education and leading a congregation. I’m sure I stumbled along using the “correct” language befitting a grown up who would be embarking on a professional career.

So I am left with the lingering question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” So far, I’ve found that I want to be a pastor and educator. I’ve found that I want to be a good presbytery executive. I’ve discovered that I hope to be a kind parent. I pray that I will be a good neighbor and a faithful disciple.  I find that what I want to be is a never-ending and likewise never-completely answered question.

Frederick Buechner describes vocation as “that place where your deepest longing meets the world’s greatest need.”

I keep refining the answer to what I want to be when I grow up.  Maybe I’m a sufferer from a Peter Pan-like syndrome but unlike Peter I do want to grow up. I just don’t want to lose the options and possibilities that come with the process of growing up.

I hope my kids and you too will never be satisfied with a single answer but keep finding new and surprising things along your journey.


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