Look back, are you where you thought you would be? Look forward, will you end up where you dream you will be? As hard as we have worked and as hard as we will work, very few of us will end up where we wanted to be and even if we do, not everything will fall perfectly into place.
What if everything worked out perfectly, would we be happy then?
Once we experience the complexities of living out what appeared to be a simple dream, the glitz and glamour that once filled our imagination is now tarnished by the sacrifices and hard work required to make it happen. If we could somehow propel ourselves from the imaginary world in which our dreams are formed to the real world in which they come true, maybe we would be happy.
Am I chasing happiness or fulfilment?
Along the journey there will be plenty of happiness and plenty of pain. If your goal is to pursue happiness then by extension your goal is to avoid pain. Only in a world that skips from the dream to the realization of that dream can we avoid pain and that world doesn’t exist. This leaves us with a dilemma. Each person must decide if they are pursuing happiness or fulfillment. If they are only interested in happiness then they will never fulfill their dream. If their goal is to avoid the pain then there is no way they will reach their dream. Life will become a series of direction changes based not on the dream but on avoiding the things that are disliked.
What is true fulfillment?
Fulfillment varies from person to person. One may dream of a family and kids while the other seeks everyday adventure without being tied down. One considers educational advancement and career achievement the way to fulfillment, another loves living paycheck to paycheck as long as they can work at something they love.
Each person will define fulfillment based on both nature and nurture, combined with experiences both positive and negative to create a want. When we look back this guide us in judging our level of success. When we look forward it will lead us in how we plot the course of our lives. Somewhere along the way we will be forced to grapple with this question, “Is what I want, is what I am aiming for, is what I have been aiming for, true fulfillment?”
Fulfillment is not the realization of the dream.
If we spend life looking forward to the day when everything comes together, we will never stop to enjoy the happiness and grow from the pain. If life does not afford us the time to fulfill our dream all we will have are the moments of happiness and the lessons of pain. Life can’t be lived without dreaming of what we would like to be; life cannot be lived as if the dream is all there is. Fulfilment comes when we see progress and enjoy milestones along the journey toward our dream. We may never see the realization of our dream or, just as bad, we may realize our dream but miss out on the experiences that accompanied the journey, either way the time we are given on this earth is wasted.
Maybe this is where we go wrong in our life as Christ followers.
Our dream is to please God in everything we do. It is not a stretch-goal to be reached sometime later in life. We should not set out to please God in the future dreaming that someday we will make it, realize success and attain fulfillment. Our dream should be to do what is pleasing in God’s sight every moment of every day. We are not working toward it like a worker climbs the ladder of corporate success, we are starting where we want to end up.
This is not to say that it isn’t a journey nor is it to say that we will get up one morning and fulfill all we are to be as followers of Christ, what I am saying is we must live each day as a fulfillment of what God calls us to be. We will experience pain and happiness, failure and success but it is not a distant dream we work toward but a daily submission to the call to “…Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” Leviticus 19:2 (NIV)
Our fulfillment does not come from aiming to someday live in obedience to God but rather our fulfillment comes from aiming to live every day in obedience to God.