…it represented an active choice rather than two lives lived by default.

For one of my classes, I’m reading this book entitled The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family by Kathleen Gerson. Among other things, she looks at young adults’ views of their parents’ marriages and these young adults aspirations for their own futures. The book draws interesting conclusions, one of which is that young adults are more concerned with the quality of the bond between their parents than the status of their marriage. In other words, a child would rather parents separate and work out their differences from afar than be privy to a tumultuous household. It makes sense, or, at least, it matches my own conclusions.

But one part really stuck out to me. The sentence above really highlights it all. Is this an active choice or just the default? Are we content where we are and waiting to see where life carries us? Or are we making decisions and choices that reflect who we are and who we intend to be?

I see a lot of passivity in the world, particularly in certain people around me. There’s a contentedness to see what happens and to blame Fate for the inconveniences of life. There’s a willingness to shrug your shoulders and say, Well. I wish things were different, but given what I have, I can’t do anything differently. But the fact of the matter is this: We’re not as constrained by our circumstances as we think.

Case in point: Joseph. He’s married with adult children. He has a Ph.D. in a very prestigious field. He has worked in said field for years on end while his children were in school. At a certain point a few years ago, he felt calling from God to give up his job to serve in campus ministry. So he did. Much more recently, he had some feeling that he needed to be able to support himself in his service rather than relying on the generosity of other Christians to pay his bills. In order to do this, he needed to work a job that would give him the flexibility to work part-time, to leave work matters at work, and to be present and available to students involved in said campus ministry. The problem? His prestigious Ph.D. places him in a position where people will only hire him in his own field. They want him to work 60-80 hour weeks and to be on call on weekends. He would have a lot of responsibility and would have to work a lot of overtime. No one wants to hire him part-time or at a lower level position because they’re convinced that either he’ll quit or they’d be uncomfortable managing someone with 2-4 times their education.

What did Joseph do? Did he throw up his hands and ask God how He expected him to fulfill this new calling? Did he give up on working himself and go back to asking for external support? Did he start bragging about how much education he has and complaining that this shouldn’t be a burden? No. Or at least not very much and not publicly.

He’s back in school for a second bachelor’s degree. With this degree, he can very easily find a part-time job confined to day-time hours that would allow him to support his family and give him the time he needs to still be active in campus ministry. And that’s exactly what he needs to meet this new calling.

It takes guts to do that. It takes guts to put aside something you’ve spent your whole life working toward because it doesn’t line up with your current goal. That is the direct opposite of living life by default. It’s what impresses me about Joseph. He knows who he is and who he intends to be. He’s willing to do what it takes to get there even if it means stepping outside of the box.

I see a lot of people living life by default, allowing things to happen to them and complaining whenever life deals them a “bad” hand. But I don’t want choose to live that…. I choose to be active, to make choices, about my activities, my friendships, my person. I know why I do things and why I do them when I do. I choose to visit my dad when he cannot grieve alone. I choose to take an active part in my own medical care. I refuse to be stuck in a rut. I refuse to let other people confine me within their own boundaries.

It’s not about having the right status, about boasting that look! you’re still married even though your family life is in shambles. It’s about having the reality that makes sense, about deep genuineness. Being genuine? That requires effort. But it makes so much more sense.

Abigail Cashelle


2 thoughts on “Not by Default


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