Is "being fulfilled" good?
December 6, 2006
I'm OK, You're OK rose quickly to the bestseller list in the 1970s. Caught up by a societal craze for feeling good, self-fulfillment became an operational litmus test. We as Christians, at times shaped by this zeitgeist, reinterpret God's call as if we require it for authentication, self-fulfillment.
I can't think of anything that so belies the biblical call and turns spiritual well-being inside out than to assume if we feel fulfilled, we must be within the borders of God's will. Or conversely if we don't, we've missed it by a half-mile.
It isn't that having a sense of fulfillment is not of our Father's interest. I'm not suggesting that having a deep assurance of what one does is not good, nor am I saying that it's inappropriate to want feelings of fulfillment.
The context here is leadership: what you and I are called to exert out of our gifting.
I've been asked—especially since I've moved into academic leadership—"Brian, are you enjoying your work?" My only honest response is, "The question I wish you'd ask is, 'Are you doing what you should be doing'" To that I answer, "Yes."
I have learned from daily Bible reading and the daily grind that self-fulfillment has little to do with the big question: "Am I in the place ordered by the Lord?" Obedience becomes the operative word.
There are moments we feel rewarded, the blush of success, or our work is in concert with God's grand scheme. But that's not the gauge we should use. Good times come momentarily and are gone. Some encounters leave me with self-doubt. Many decisions come by agonizing reflection, be they issues about personnel, budgets, strategies, or judgments. There are decisions that committees leave alone, that manuals don't solve. Leaders are called on to find closure.
Self-fulfillment may be a by-product of leading. But make it the test of being in God's will and one is soon tempted to "hear" God's call to "sunnier" climates, to places behind the front lines, to people who appreciate who I am and what I have to offer.
I can't finish the eleventh chapter of Hebrews and then live with a sense of entitlement, that as God's servant, self-fulfillment is my right: "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."
Dear Father and Lord, life seems crazy. My world chatters up a storm on being fulfilled. It's as if I need to buy its mantra if I'm to avoid being a misfit. I feel pulled: I so want to hear your voice of approval—the only seeming worthwhile reward. Yet in too many days, life struggles are out of sync with the assumption that leadership brings personal fulfillment. It's not often I feel this way, but in this prayer let me offer these words, by faith. "Dear Father, I'd trade feelings of self-fulfillment any day for knowing that in some modest way, my life is geared to fulfill your calling." Amen.
A modern assumption is that to have a calling is to experience self-fulfillment in that calling.