Finding growth in the strangest places

Who has their life already figured out? A comforting answer to this is, nobody.

Nobody has it figured out, no matter how good their life seems on the outside. Not even that Instagram celebrity you follow, nor the motivational speaker you look up to. No one has their life together.

Most of us believe that we can claim a good life if we work really hard. Didn’t you at one point rush your growth and beat yourself up to create opportunities? I know I did.

And this is beyond working smart versus working hard.

We keep hustling for a ‘good life’ but what does that look like anyway? The world says it is one lived comfortably. The one where you have a car to drive, a career to lean on, a partner to come home to, a picture-perfect house to live in, a higher education to back your reputation. I mean, okay. What comes after achieving those things?  All of that for what?

In the end, we measure one’s success with questions like, what car model do you drive? What do you do and how much do you earn? What does your wife/husband look like? How big is your house? Did you finish your master/doctoral degree?

I remember Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book The Little Prince, and honestly, the things he said about adulthood are all still relevant today. A good life doesn’t necessarily pertain to a comfortable life. Comfortable is not a synonym for good.

In an article by Anatoly Liberman of Oxford University Press, he explained “Good has transparent etymology: gather and -gether are related to it. Their root means “fit, suitable.” That is “good” which has been “fixed,” “assembled,” “put together” in a proper way.”

Perhaps, following its etymology, the closest synonyms to the adjective ‘good’ are suitable, adequate, and satisfactory. Even Merriam Webster doesn’t relate comfort or convenience with the word ‘good’. It’s liberating, isn’t it?

So let’s get back to defining what a good life means. I’ll ask you a few questions to start.

First, is your life suitable for your mission and purpose?

I know I wrote about this a couple of years back, but let me write about it again.

No sound inventor will invest his creativity, time, effort, and passion to develop a tool that will, on its own, decide its benefits and features. Before an inventor starts a masterpiece, there was already a purpose, a function, in mind.

Take, for example, a furniture maker. A furniture maker knows what he needs and how he will put together the raw materials to create a chair. A table, a shelf, and a chair can all be made from the same materials, but look carefully at the details. Their individual purpose will dictate the form, design, and components.

When the maker is finished building the chair and he proves that it is suitable for its purpose — say he sat on it and found it sturdy enough to hold his weight — then a furniture maker can call that chair good. Suitability is being right or appropriate for a particular person, purpose, or situation. It will be hard to define what a good life means if you don’t know what you are suitable for. You got to have knowledge of the one who created you, what his purpose is for you, and how he designed you to function.

This also goes to say that your purpose is not something you randomly choose for yourself. The world conditions us to believe that we can be anything we want to be, but that’s also saying a chair can be a bed if it wants to.

Let me help you break it down a little further, okay?

It’s hard to define a direction (where to go) without determining your vision. It’s hard to define your vision (where to focus) if you are not embracing your purpose. It’s hard to define your purpose (what you were created for) if you don’t know your function. It’s hard to define your function (what you are made to do) if you don’t know your identity. It’s hard to define your identity (who you are) if you have no clue about your Maker (who you were from).

In the earlier example, the furniture maker calls the chair good, because it was his intention to build something that people can sit on. Meanwhile, a furniture designer may have a different take on what is good about that chair and he may say, “that chair is okay but it’s not good enough”.

Why is that same chair not good for the furniture designer when the furniture maker finds it good? It’s because their identity and vision are not the same. The maker is concerned with the functionality, while the designer has more things to consider apart from its function.

You see, does the furniture maker cares if the designer thinks his work is good? If they’re working together in a business, absolutely. But if the furniture maker created that chair for his own use, then the designer’s opinion doesn’t really matter. It’s just an opinion.

So when the world puts a standard on what’s good and what’s not about your life, that’s just their opinion unless you are working in partnership with the world. (When I say world, I meant the worldly things, the society, and the mindset that is different from what is taught in the Bible.)

It’s important to understand that the world didn’t create you, God did. God was the one to open the womb of your mother and worked His miracle so you can be born. Instead of trying to please the world, why not ask God why he brought you to existence? What purpose are you suitable for?

Second, is your life adequate? Are you lacking in anything or do you have enough?

Is what you have right now enough? Abilities, money, looks, image? Are they enough to live a good life?

It seems impossible to be unbothered by the image of a good life the media portrays. Hollywood says your boyfriend is this hunk that will sweep you off your feet and make you feel butterflies in your stomach. On the other hand, you’ve got social media to tell it in your face how fancy life must be, or how pretty one should look or else, we’re just a bunch of nobody.

“You are not good enough,” says the voice in your head as you stare at the perfect life of these select strangers. It can’t be helped that as you admire them, you also become aware of the huge contrast between your life and theirs. The gap is immeasurable. And that’s when we feel like we’ve failed, isn’t it? Then comes the insecurity, then comes the “not enough” sentiments, the feeling of inadequacy.

You suddenly see this large hole you need to fill. Out of the blue, you are behind the target you never knew was there.

Of course, those standards are defined again in a superficial manner. It all focuses on what people see: the material things, the facade.

Take a step back. Do you see how the world is trying to redefine what’s good for you? The point of reference shifts when you listen to the opinions of the world.

The measurement that indicates how far you’ve gone and how close you’re getting to the goal is no longer based on purpose, rather on the trends of the world. Where are you looking at right now? What is your point of reference? Does a good life mean a life of happiness then? Are the ugly parts of your life not considered good?

The happy side of life is so easy to put on display, but nobody will ever brag about their failures. If you think about it, the happy parts are only about 30% of our whole lives. Are we living mindfully or are we just waiting for that 30% to happen so we can finally say we’re alive?

But how about the mundane? How about the heartbreaks? How about the rejections? Do they count for something or are they just things we hide because they shame us and taint our reputation?

Well, let me tell you this. The most amazing things I learned in life, I didn’t find them in the mountains (my highest moments), but I experienced them in the valleys (lowest points of my life).

When I thought life was cruel and nothing is ever good enough, God told me otherwise when he showed me His purpose.Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Do you see that? The Bible says all things. All things work together for what? For good. Even what we think are the worst, most shameful parts of ourselves, it is ours to use for the glory of God. They were put there for our advantage when we are pursuing the call of God.

God says we don’t lack any good thing (Psalm 34:10). You may not be the most talented and the most beautiful, but you have everything you need to accomplish what God has set for you. Even your bad days are important to test your character (James 1:2-4), to mature you.

A life free from pain and suffering is a life not lived. Your strength will never be known because it hasn’t been tested. Embrace the good times with the bad. The mountain moments will come, and it won’t be like what you see on Instagram. All of that is just noise.

With God, you have enough. You are enough.

Lastly, does your life bring you satisfaction?

I am on the hunt for another job again, as of writing this post. The good thing is, I was able to let go of the company I’ve been with for the past three years. I’ve been meaning to leave but at the same time, I looked for excuses to stay.

That’s the thing about change. It gives you both hope and fear. And it’s up to you how to respond. Will fear dominate or will hope be greater? One can paralyze you and the other, push you.

The field I’m working in has an ever-changing landscape. In the digital world, there will always be new updates, latest versions, changing algorithms. So even when I’m in this field for so long, I still don’t know a lot of things.

While browsing through job listing sites and scanning the job requirements, I feel like I am both too much and never enough. I feel deserving and at the same time, unqualified.

Today’s generation is raised to become outstanding artists, radical thinkers, creative entrepreneurs, brave and hungry children who crave and chase after success.

Many times I felt like I haven’t grown a bit while everyone is just advancing life stages, launching startups, and doing amazing things. I honestly felt left in a corner, inadequate, unsatisfied.

But as I watched the world go by in front of me during this 6-months-and-still-ongoing community quarantine, God changed my view of growth. What’s happening on the outside is merely a reflection of the things on the inside. Real growth happens within.

The growth I’ve been chasing met me when I stayed still. When I allowed growth to find me, and when I kept my eyes open to notice it, the transformation happened.

Nothing changed on the surface, but I feel satisfied with where my life is going at the moment. I don’t completely see how God is moving in my midst. Come to think of it, maybe I’m seeing only the 10% of what He is doing and the remaining 90%? I leave it to trust, to faith. I just know it’s all working together for good, according to His purpose.

The world’s so-called success oftentimes has no deeper goal beyond self-gain, no deeper meaning beyond comfort. Right now I’m waiting for an email after my interview last week with a potential employer. The me before would be very panicky about the waiting period, but now I’m just calm.

Home is such a strange place to grow because it is our comfort zone. And we know that when we’re comfortable, we usually just do things out of routine or without much thought.

What a year this has been. 2020. God is changing the order of things. He can bring growth wherever and whenever He pleases.

So are you living a good life today? I hope you are, even if it means a life that’s uncomfortable.

For myself, I can say I am living a good life. It’s far from fancy, but thank God fancy is not what I’m after. Winning souls for Christ is.


Wonderfilled Journal Louise

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