This is a post that I originally wrote to be posted on Homeschoolblogger.com -- on their Front Porch. Unfortunately they are discontinuing their blog and so I will post it here for your perusal.
It is always great fun to see what young children are going to say when you ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have gotten the funniest answers from my children like one young guy who thought he might like to be a police dog, or a child of a friend who decided after a funeral that he would like to be a grave digger. However, we usually keep asking the question into the teen years so that we can help our children get focused, streamline their studies and plan for college. After reading our unit study on the life of William Borden, I realized that we have been focused on getting the wrong answer.
According to our study book, William Borden was asked the infamous question by his mother when he was six years old. His response was, “I want to be an honest man when I grow up, and true and loving and kind and faithful.” (Wisdom Booklet 40 Published 2006 Advanced Training International). His answer was about the kind of man he wanted to be and not about his vocation. How often have we prompted our children to tell us what they want to do instead of what they want to be?
I know for myself that I can get sidetracked by the planning needed for after graduation. Where do you want to college? We have to know whether they offer your major. What is your major? What do you want to do? Even those waters are pretty murky. I have a child that expressed an interest in nursing. Well, OR nurse? ER nurse? OB nurse? Even before that they are levels of nursing with different degrees. Nursing schools don’t always offer all of them. What do you want to do? Trying to be leading in the right direction I did begin to ask, “How will you serve Christ with this?” I didn’t even think enough at the time to ask “Do you feel led of the Lord?”
It is more than serving Christ with what we do; it is what we are going to be. This is character training. Don’t I want my young men to be men of God? That requires that they learn to be obedient (first time), honest, compassionate and willing to stand for their Savior at all costs. It also means to stand up for others when they are given the opportunity. For my girls, don’t I want them to be young ladies? The list would be pretty much the same: obedience, honesty, compassionate and willing to stand firm in their faith. I want them to learn to walk out of step with the world and in step with Christ.
Most of us start this pretty young, by teaching our little guys to be obey Mom and Dad and tell the truth. Then, we keep saying, “when you grow up…” 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” That means right now – no matter the age “be thou an example”. I have started calling my boys “my mighty men” and my girls “young ladies of virtue”. I want them to know that is what they are right now. To be honest, it is a messy business. They don’t always get it right. They aren’t always obedient, or truth-tellers or compassionate with each other. When I look at myself, I see that I have some years on them, and for me it is still a messy business. As we are told in Philippians 2:12, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” So, we are all working it out – no matter the age.
As I approach the launching of my teenagers, I am changing my emphasis from majors and vocations to the kind of man or woman that Christ is asking them to become. I am urging them to keep “working out their salvation” and let the Lord lead their steps. I counsel them to be faithful and diligent to “…Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). Finally, I have stopped asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and I have started asking: “What is the Lord calling you to do for Him?”