It is a question that we face over and over again since the time we are very young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now I must admit that I got much enjoyment hearing my children respond to this question at the end of every academic year at their preschool. Parker’s responses: a mommy (age 3), an airplane (age 4), an architect (age 5 – he wanted to build a doughnut shop). My daughter Atley in her final preschool graduation announced, “A babysitter” However her face fell in complete despair minutes later when another little girl announced, “a mermaid.” I could read my daughter’s mind, “I could have been a MERMAID! My life is now over!”
I think many of us feel this level of pressure at making our declarations of what we are working towards. What are you going to be when you grow up? What I have found fascinating is that as I have been in the process of growing up, I have yet to meet an adult that feels like they have arrived at the destination of this answer. Yet, adults, those in the process of becoming adults, and others keep the question weaving through society, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I have the joy of getting to talk with students during their time at Valpo. The conversations that are often filled with the most angst revolve around declaring a major, deciding on internships, and finding a job for the summer, school year, or after graduation. As we sit and talk it is clear that it is not just them I’m sitting with, but the countless people who have spoken to them, asked that question, spoken dreams about their life, and have helped to mold the heavy burden of expectation they are carrying with them.
Pastor Jim and I have the joy of getting to teach the Church Vocations Symposium this year. One of the things we are most excited about is the opportunity students will have to hear from a variety of Valpo alumni who are doing ministry in many different ways. Some serve in churches, some serve through community gardens, others through international work, and so much more. Rarely, however, have these plans been a clear straight path. Rarely do the job titles define “what they are becoming when they grow up.” When I have had a chance previously to talk with alumni about their journeys, just who they are becoming when they grow up is revealed in the relationships they have created with their community, their family, and their friends. The people they are becoming are revealed in the work they do to serve their neighbor and the community where they find themselves. The people they are becoming are impacted by the ways they listen to others, strive to continue to learn, and realize that God is still shaping them.
As a parent, yes, I took delight in the answers my children gave to this question, but I also hope this question doesn’t limit them as it does so many. I hope that what they want to be when they grow up is grounded in being a disciple. You know, those crazy men and women that followed around Jesus asking questions, seeking out justice, listening deeply, serving their neighbors, working towards healing, and using their gifts to share God’s love with the world.
I hope that students at Valpo will realize they are growing into what they will be — not just in the major they declare, but in the ways they listen, the experience they open themselves up to, the ways they bravely face uncomfortable situations so they can learn and grow, the moments of serving their community, and the small places where they discover their gifts and passions God has placed in each of them. The truth is I hope this not just for the students but for all of us that find ourselves part of this community. I also pray that in these days of growing and becoming, each of us can be assured of what we already are – a beloved child of God.
-Dcs. Kristin Lewis
Sept. 9, 2020