Friday, May 17, 2013

The pursuit of fulfillment. . .

In the old days when a parent had a kid who could not finish college or hold a job or settle down, they would say "he [or she, though it was more often a boy] is still finding themselves..."  Now, until you’ve found yourself, has become the reason for delaying marriage and choosing cohabitation.  No one wants a spouse who is not there yet -- apparently it is okay to live with a guy or girl who has not arrived at the magic moment of maturity and personal fulfillment.

What does it mean to find yourself?  I am not sure I have ever gotten to that point.  I still do goofy things (ask my family).  I often feel like a child.  My mind goes in a thousand different directions at the same time.  I get all wrapped in something and then forget about it for a long time.  I start many projects and do not complete everything I begin.  I still dream dreams of what could be or might still be.  I change my mind.  I am curious about many things.  I read car magazines and day dream of hot rods (always have).  I doodle.  I do not think that I am as old as the years say and it kind of scares me to think that one day I will look in the mirror and not see the mid-20s person I have seen for thirty years.

If I had waited for things to fall into place, for me to grow up, for me to find myself, well, I never would have gotten married or had kids or become a Pastor.  I am still "finding myself" and do not consider that an "aha!" moment will ever come to let me know I have arrived.  It not only saddens me but shocks me to think that there are significant numbers of folks who are putting their lives on hold in order to "find themselves".

As Premarital Sex in America found, young adults think you shouldn’t get married until your personality is basically fixed, until you’ve found yourself.  So they live their lives indulging in things without making commitments -- career, job, spouse, family, etc...  In this way, living at home or returning to home to live carries less of its old baggage and becomes legitimate cover the legitimate pursuit of the completed self -- a necessary conclusion before new chapters of life may begin.

But why am I surprised...  We talk as if we have no time for anything until we retire and then we fill our time with things that prevent us from doing what we said must wait until retirement (volunteering).  We treat life as an inward pursuit of self instead of the external pursuit of others, service, and love that gives without expecting return.  We think that maturity comes first and then commitment instead of commitment becoming the means to maturity.  We expect that marriage must wait until we are "ready" for it and then exploit our immaturity and make it last as long as possible as if marriage and family were burdens to be postponed as long as humanly possible.

It seems to me that the great lie of finding self and the endless pursuit of personal fulfillment is one of the great success stories of the devil.  He has done a pretty good job of convincing us that the things which once came first in life are so important that they must be delayed until we are ready for them.  At this rate we will never be ready and this is his giggle behind the whispered lies of "finding self".

I often take delight in telling couples who have slept around for years, tried out living together with a number of different potential spouses (or not potentials), and have cohabited for years to try it out and see if it is right, while saving up money for the big wedding of their (mainly her) dreams, that the folks who are happiest in marriage tend to be those who went right from a dorm room or parents house into their home and life together as husband and wife.  That all the stuff we think makes us ready, also seems to make us less satisfied by what we waited for than those who married without a trial period.  In other words, could it be that the very thing that we are holding off for is the thing that helps us realize who we are?  We live in a time of incessant navel gazing and constant analysis of whether or not we are happy or should be happy or will be happy... all the while life goes merrily along leaving the ponderers in its dust...  Don't get caught up in the pursuit of personal fulfillment and don't buy into the lie of finding yourself.  That is what started sin in the first place...


Anonymous said...

Another great post! I sure enjoy reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that being married DOES teach you about yourself.And it takes a really long time to grow together for one to see this. Sometimes even in marriage, people hope to get "self-fulfilled" by their spouse. It's the whole, "what can my spouse do for me?" mentality.

This whole self-fulfillment thing is basically a set up to fail. Incredibly works oriented, trying to achieve something we will never be able to do. It's great to know that there is ONE person who has already made us fulfilled...Jesus. And thankfully I can trust HIS fulfillment, not my own.

Janis Williams said...

Somewhat like the old one-liner: If you finally find yourself, you'll forget where you put yourself (or no one will want what you've found).