It’s human: we think ourselves the best fit for the role we crave most. We apply for colleges and jobs. We try out for the school theater or sports teams with the expectation of “making it.” We’re the “obvious fit,” for we know our skill set, passions and proclivities. Rejection, we think, is out of the question.
When rejection does spark, however, it kindles the dry grass of our high expectations.
Timothy Keller says: “If you love anything in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations.”
I, like many of us, can relate to this. Following a recent rejection in my life, the fire of pessimistic defeat sent me into feverish overdrive. I wanted to shut myself off from hope, to check-out, like Red from The Shawshank Redemption. And like a hamster in a wheel, I wanted to pour my negative emotions into my work, running hard while I imagine a life outside the Cage.
I wanted to let the fumes billow because it felt like catharsis.
So pessimism and imagination became a worm and hook, and like a dumb bass, my unmet expectations swallowed a lie that was too easy to ignore:
“I’m just a cog in the system, a hamster powering in the machine.”
It may be fitting to compare this fatalistic hamster to the saints of Hebrews 11: “And all these [saints], though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Heb. 11:39).
But I, the hamster in the Machine, am no Hebrews 11 saint. The hard news came from Jordan Raynor, author of Called to Create. He says that Christian creatives, whether in artistry, business or other entrepreneurship, must overcome the temptation to work for our own glory. Like the people of Babel, if we work “to make a name for ourselves” (Gen. 11:4), we will eventually meet humility.
So it’s better to first take hold of Christ’s words:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
It’s better to trust and embrace our Author before pining after our roles. We may long to lay the ink to our story’s page, but God holds the pen. It wasn’t, and never will be, my responsibility to choose my role, and neither was it for the saints of Hebrews 11.