The 6-year-olds in my Sunday School class love telling me what they want to be when they grow up: an inventor, a cellist, a mom, a ballerina. Their choices change regularly, and while I get a kick out of keeping tabs on their latest versions of themselves, I often remind myself to view them as directed and mission-oriented, even at this age.
I love to consider each child's divinely bestowed purpose, and to realize that ultimately nothing can stand in the way of each knowing and expressing that purpose. I've come to see that what beats at the heart of each child - and each man and woman - is the potential to understand that they are the wonderful, individual expression - the image and likeness - of the Divine. Their mission is to live that way.
Jesus was the best example of one who didn't let a lack of age or experience stand in the way of fulfilling a mission. At 12, he was already in the temple speaking with men who were probably four and five times his age. "And all that heard him," says the Bible, "were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:47).
The fact that Jesus was the promised Saviour may have given him a head start in the mission department. But as I've thought about that day in the temple, I've realized that perhaps the key to Jesus' freedom from age barriers was not just his prophesied purpose, but something quite simple: his understanding of his sonship. A sonship that we all share. One that claims God as the source of all we are and all we do - now and always. And how could age stand in the way of something as eternal and divinely authorized as that?
For me, Jesus and the subject of mission are a natural duo because I've yearned to feel the same kind of carpe diem, "With God all things are possible," sentiment that I imagine fueled Jesus' ministry. Sure, I've got goals - and a strong sense of mission. But I've often felt thwarted in my desire to live that purpose - to heal - because of the voice that says: "You don't have enough experience or understanding; practice or know-how."
One day, though, as I considered mission yet again, I was startled by an arresting thought: In spite of the way I've prayed about my Sunday School students, I was still laboring under a major misconception about myself. Of course, their lives weren't on hold. I'd seen clearly they had everything they needed in order to live their missions right now. Yet I still viewed myself as a few years (or dozens of experiences) shy of being able to fulfill my own purpose.
"It's not about the becoming," came the message from God. "It's about the being."
In that moment, I saw that living my mission was simply about accepting the idea that I was complete, whole, and fully formed - not just tomorrow, but today. Though I might not yet see myself that way, God already did. So fulfilling my purpose meant consistently yielding to His view. Only that yielding would allow the opportunities - and my own abilities to fulfill them - to emerge.
And they did! Just a day or two after this insight, I got a phone call from someone who wanted me to pray for her. I agreed, and she was healed. I also got the point. My job was to keep focused on the here-and-nowness of my God-given mission - not to spin my wheels wondering about the ifs and whens.
"Now we see through a glass, darkly," wrote Paul, "but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Cor. 13:12). I love that idea that we're not "in part"; it's just that we seem to know "in part." But seeing from God's perspective blots out the darkness that would say we're only partway to perfection and fulfilling our purpose. Then we know ourselves as He knows us. And our mission? Well, we see it's more than just possible.