Faith and “career-mapping”—strategically planning our way to “the top”—make uncomfortable bedfellows, in my mind. Everyone assumes that the best and the brightest individuals will develop a business plan for their lives; a pathway to success. Here are four reasons I resist it.
But the future belongs to the Lord, not me. It is His, and His alone. Who is really in the driver’s seat, or should be? The assumption that I need a carefully-crafted plan is perhaps more presumptuous than we want to admit. James reminds us that even traveling between cities can only be done “if the Lord wills” (Js 4:15).
2. Career-mapping degenerates into politics.
The people around me inevitably become means to my end. I evaluate their significance on the basis of their usefulness to me. I manage (or manipulate) relationships. I silently compete with colleagues or fellow-workers to reach my next stepping-stone. I’m always politicking—sometimes compromising. And my authenticity and transparency become the first casualties. Must.Not.Look.Weak.
3. Career-mapping makes me inherently impatient and/or discontent.
If I fail my timetable or get diverted from my objectives, I grow steadily unsettled, unhappy, and insecure. I require recognition for my efforts—afraid that if I’m not noticed then I’ll be overlooked for promotion. In fact, the well-managed career-path often exacerbates our fears and makes us oblivious to the privilege of the present moment because we’re always looking into a future that never really arrives. It breeds frustration and discontent.
4. Career-mapping drives me to walk more by sight than by faith.
God’s voice easily gets crowded out by my desires. And my plans can easily supplant His leading. Nuff said.
My comments are not anti-career, nor am I speaking against promotion or authority within a given field. Rather, I wonder if the driving ambition that we expect of our children—or practice ourselves—really serves any helpful purpose. Worse; it may harm us.
I teach at a Christian University. We equip men and women in many fields (business, education, psychology, ministry, the arts, biology, etc). But if we allow the theme of one’s “occupation” to supplant the priority of our “vocation”—God’s calling on our life to follow the leading of His Spirit with each step of life—perhaps we have dealt more in spiritual death than life. I’m not ready to be such an undertaker—either as a parent or as an educator.