May I confess that this was one of the most terrifying questions of my youth? When did you first hear it? I heard it when I was a young boy; way back when I didn’t even know we were supposed to grow up!
As I grew older and heard that question, my frustration grew. On the one hand I was coming to understand that there was almost literally a limitless supply of possibilities of what I would be when I grew up. On the other hand, was “The Question” that was so unsettling.
It didn’t take me long to understand that the whole concept of choosing what I wanted to be when I grew up was really a matter of beginning the lifelong process of narrowing down my choices. In other words, as soon as one chooses – most of the other possibilities fall away and you enter a system in which the possibilities become ever more limited.
We all had a common start. Jesus, in Luke 8:5 puts it like this: “A sower went out to sow his seed.”
My life story, like yours, began with a seed. As the parable puts it, these seeds fall in all sorts of places: by the wayside, on rock, among thorns, and on good ground. We all have opinions about the conditions of the place on which landed the seed that became us. The bottom line, it seems to me, is that God chose each one.
Therefore, it is good.
Each of us was born. We sprouted and were seen. What do you want to be when you grow up?
“For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4:28)
We emerged into the world and matured. We grew into the full realization of whatever it was that God wanted for us.
Baby boys become men; baby girls become women.
But, in a deeper sense, in our youths there became apparent certain interests, joys, talents and gifts. These, too, grew.
The theory is that as we become adults we ripen and our gifts come to bear in what we do for productivity’s sake. The truth is, “The Question” often serves to cause us to abandon some of our hopes and dreams. After all, we have to make a living. It’s all up to us, right?
Then, for me anyway (and many of you) Jesus came into my life. Perhaps it would be better put to say that I entered HIS life.
As time went on some things seemed very important and other things started to wane in importance. Time started to be more crucial because anything that runs out increases in value in our eyes. As we age, we sense that happening. Time has become precious to me.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:24-25)
A grain of wheat represents potential. No matter our age, we all have that. We have built into us, by God, the probability that we can become more than we are.
We have life in us. God sows us – usually into people. It is His right to do so.
“Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain; perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.” (1 Corinthians 15:36-38)
To our Father in heaven, what seems like paradox to us makes so much sense to Him. His is a better, clearer perspective. To be made alive, we must die.
Sometime since 1992 I decided to allow the Lord, the Owner, to have His way with me. I see Him using me in two basic and different ways.
In some ways I have been sown into the lives of other people. As a seed that has been sown, I represent potential in another’s life. If the person nurtures that, more life will result.
The other way I have seen myself used is as a grain, to be consumed. When grain is submitted to be consumed, it is broken and crushed. This is to free the nutritious part of the grain from the husk.
What do I want to be when I grow up? Now I know.
I often tell people that I want to be used up for God; I want to be a dry husk.
I would love to be able to honestly say to the Father what Jesus says in John 17:4.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4)
When I shared this recently while teaching a friend of mine was given a spiritual word-picture of this. When the children of Israel would thresh grain....they would throw it up in the air. The husk would be carried away by the wind. For them, the husk was worthless; for us, the husk has completed its task and is carried “home” by the wind of the Holy Spirit.
I want to be, in God’s timing, a husk.
A husk has experienced a sowing, a growing and a harvesting. A husk has been broken and threshed. A husk has delivered to the Owner its purpose for existing and a husk is carried off by the wind.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
There it is: “The Question.”
Do you just want to live for you? Or do you want to satisfy a greater purpose?
God “called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…” (2 Timothy 1:9)
Paul told us that we should imitate him just as he imitated Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1) What did Jesus essentially do with His life?
“…walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5:2)