“Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.”Blaise Pascal
I fumbled my way through my university application process and initial career selection. Why? I didn’t have a strong knowledge of my values, interests, skills, or capacity to guide me to a program that was a good fit.
Why didn’t I know myself? I failed to rely on Jesus and my faith community to help guide me step by step in these monumental life choices. I was unintentionally making career choices separate from who I truly was, apart from my faith in God and my faith community.
Although I was a Christian, most of my decisions for academics and career were driven by cultural idols and self-serving desires. I had dreams for a prestigious career with superior purchasing power. I thought being a medical doctor would get me there.
At the recommendation of my high school counsellor I decided to enroll in the College of Nutrition and Dietetics. He thought an understanding of preventative health might give me an unique edge for getting into med school.
I failed to research and discover that Nutrition and Dietetics is chemistry. My least favorite subject in high school. My relationship with chemistry only got worse in university. Everything about the program stressed me out. I didn’t find myself interested in most of the content. I lacked the skills required. I couldn’t keep up.
After class one day, one of my nutrition professors talked with me about my apparent lack of interest or proficiency in his class. It was humbling to agree with his observations. But then he surprised me. He mentioned the enthusiasm he saw in me for my involvement in Power to Change. He saw my efforts to start spiritual conversations with my classmates. He had given me permission to do a spiritual survey of my peers in his class. On a few occasions I initiated spiritual discussions with him. He suggested I consider pursuing that as a career. He could see what I couldn’t.
I tallied two years of mediocre grades before the College of Nutrition and Dietetics intervened and required me to discontinue for one year. It was hard to accept this reality. It was becoming increasingly apparent that a career as a medical doctor was not going to materialize. I was slow to pay attention to the warning signs, mostly because I didn’t want to give up my dream of prestige and privilege. But trying to keep the dream alive caused me too much stress. Trying to be someone I am not tends to do that.
My failure was hard to accept. But it did give me direction. Thankfully, in the midst of my academic failures I started to seek God’s guidance more seriously. I also started to discover my values, interests, skills, and capacity, as I asked for counsel and prayer in my Power to Change community. Even my motivations for my career path were changing. I wasn’t as motivated by prestige and purchasing power. I was becoming more eager to find a degree that would honour God, suit me, and equip me to serve others.
Looking back, it was all too easy for me to chart a path for myself without regard to who God was calling me to be. But my autonomy was working against me. How could I know what God had in store for me if I wasn’t connected to Him and my faith community?
Thankfully I did eventually get connected to God and a faith community. Through a more healthy discernment process I was able to complete a degree in Psychology. It proved to be an eventual career path more in line with my values, interests, skills, and capacity. My negligence required a mid-course correction.
God’s word emphasizes my need to depend on and delight in God. As I listen, He offers me practical wisdom for my career choices. The following verses were helpful in encouraging me to trust God with my desires, and to seek the wisdom of wiser people than myself.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:4 ESV
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”Proverbs 15:22 ESV
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”Proverbs 11:14 ESV
Read more about NEXT, Power to Change’s initiative to help Grade 12s connect to a faith based community in college or university.