I laughed as I read my friend Jocelyn’s Christmas letter. She described how her 8-year-old, Elsa, has solidified her life plans–where she’ll attend college, her field of study, and her career objectives after graduation.
Life is quite tidy for Elsa. Turning to her six-year-old brother, Elsa asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Ethan?”
“I wanna be a nothin’,” Ethan says in a grumbly voice.
And I totally get where he’s coming from. Many days, I just want to be a nothin’, too! There’s so much less pressure that way. No expectations weighing down on you, nothing pressing you to do more; be more. If you’re a nothin’, you can just relax, and watch what the tide brings in.
Those people who are bent on becoming a ‘something’ can be so annoying with their goal-setting and successes. They constantly show me up. I’d feel much more comfortable if we could all be nothin’s together. Wouldn’t that be nice?
But if I dig around in my heart, I find that my aspirations to be a nothin’ usually have their roots in fear. I’m afraid that even my best efforts won’t amount to much. I’m worried that if I try, I’ll fail. If the goal is something really challenging, or something I’ve previously failed at, the chances are even higher that I’ll fail. I’m afraid of embarrassing or humiliating myself. And so, rather than digging in, and pressing toward a difficult goal, I opt out.
I say, “I wanna be a nothin’.”
But then comes Jesus, saying, “Come, follow me.” He invites me to a life of high adventure and risk–but not for the sake of making something of myself. Following Jesus is all about making myself nothing, and taking the form of a servant. (Phil. 2:7) But “making myself nothing” is completely different from choosing to be a nothin’.
Jesus says that when I lay my life down, I don’t have to be afraid of losing it. I don’t have to worry about being humiliated or shown up, if my goal is to serve. And Jesus shows me how it’s done. Though he was mocked and scorned, he willingly gave his life up for the sake of his friends.
As I face the new year, there’s always a temptation to opt out of goals and resolutions, saying, “I just want to be a nothin’.” But Jesus invites me to lay aside my fears, follow Him, and do something truly great with my life.