Here are snippets from three different questions, each asking about slightly different aspects of the same thing.
This may sound silly, but I want to be in a band, but I have a passion for art and playing music, and my parents want me to go into something that will get a lot of money. They also want me to go to college. I’m not sure how to differentiate between what I want, and my calling, and either way I’m not sure how to tell my parents if it is something that doesn’t involve huge chunks of cash.
How do I tell my atheist parents I want to major in ministry for college and also as a career after high school?
I don’t know what to do in college. I barely know how to do what I want to do in my life. Trust me, it’s not a specific, set, stable career choice.I just want to live for the Lord. I don’t know how to do that, and my (soon to be ) wife is not supportive of this choice.
Jed Brewer replied:
There are some specifics on each of these questions, and we’ll cover those, but, first, here’s the big picture.
God created you with a plan and a purpose. (Eph 2:10) You have a responsibility before God to investigate that and live into it. (Gal 6:4-5 MSG) God – having made you – is the one who gets a say in your life, and that comes way, way before what well-meaning family members want. (Mat 10:34-37) Each of us will be held accountable for the way we have lived our lives, particularly in regards to furthering the Kingdom and serving the least-of-these. (Mat 25:31-46) In that moment, Mom and Dad and Girlfriend won’t get a say. It’s down to just what God thinks. (Heb 9:27) But, of course, when we live life God’s way, we have it to the fullest, discovering who we really are, so why would we settle for anything else? (Luke 9:23-27, MSG)
Now, then, it might be easiest to do some of this as a job-and-calling FAQ.
Q: Don’t I have to honor my parents? I mean, that’s in the Bible!
A: You are called to honor your parents, yes. Which means to bring honor to their name. Living in a Godly fashion and serving others in love is the most honoring thing you could possibly do towards your parents. You are not called to do what they want instead of what God wants.
Q: Don’t I have a responsibility to financially provide for myself? Doesn’t the Bible say, “If a man does not work he shall not eat?”
A: You have a responsibility to follow the Lord’s direction in your life. He will provide what is necessary for you to live that out. (Mat 6:33)
Q: How do I know if what I’m looking at is a “calling” or if I’m just being young and irresponsible?
A: Discovering your calling is a journey, and it won’t happen overnight. If you feel a passion in your heart, follow it, and pray for wisdom on how to marry it with serving the down-and-out. If you can bring those two together, you’ll be hot on the trail.
Q: If I’m going to have a family some day, how will I provide for them?
A: The best thing you can do for your future children is to develop a mature walk with the Lord, and live a meaningful life that revolves around serving others. Children need a model of how to live, not a piggy bank with legs.
Lastly, how do we actually have these conversations? Great question.
With the brother that has the unsupportive girlfriend, here’s how that should go. “Darling, you know I love you. That said, from this day forward, my life is about serving Jesus Christ. I don’t know exactly how that’s gonna play out. I will likely be poor and obscure. And I don’t care. Because what I’m telling you right now is: it’s gonna happen. This is not a debate. I am serving the Lord. Period. If you wanna come with me on that journey, fantastic. If you don’t, now’s the time to walk away. But the option of us being together and me not serving the Lord with everything I’ve got isn’t on the table. If you’re wondering who I’m gonna choose between you and him, believe it, it’s him.”
With the atheist parents, here’s what I would suggest. “Mom and Dad, I love you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. You’ve raised me to be the kind of person who wants to make the world a better place, and you have succeeded in that aim. That’s exactly what I want to do. Likewise, you’ve raised me to be the kind of person who thinks for themselves, and makes the right decision, even when it’s hard and unpopular. Again, you’ve gotten all of that. As I look at the next few years of my life, I know what I want. I’ve thought it through, I’ve looked at it from all angles, I’ve taken in everything you’ve taught me, and I’ve come to a decision. I want to serve other people, and I believe Christian Ministry is the most effective way to do that. I know you aren’t down with all of the God-stuff, and I appreciate that, but, as it turns out, Christians are the ones who know about serving others. And that’s what I want to do.”
For the brother than wants to be in a band and make art – start doing that. Today. You don’t need anybody’s permission to do those things. Start doing them. Start looking for ways to serve others through those activities. I think you’ll find things get a bit clearer as you get into the motion of living out these passions.
Lastly, for all of you, don’t give up. This is a beautiful but difficult journey. It’s worth it, but it can be hard. Be kind to yourself (the world won’t). Be honest with the Lord about how you’re feeling. And let me know how I can be praying for you.
P.S. For folks where their parents are involved in footing the bill on rent, food, etc, there can be some situational specifics that would be worth talking through. Message me non-anonymous, and I’d be happy to talk about that.