You can do whatever you want to do.
You have so much potential.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I heard these soundtracks more than I can count as a little girl. Even when no one was saying them to me, they played on auto repeat in my impressionable little mind. I came to believe that my potential, my ability was my source. In order to find fulfillment in life, I believed I would need to turn that potential into something of substance. I came to trust in me: what I could do, produce, or achieve.
Haunted By Potential
Consequently, I evaluate my life now, largely by what I do and produce. The once well-meaning encouragements, now haunt me. I am a stay at home mom who cut her grad school degree short and has no major outlet for all that “potential.” (So I started a blog.) Sometimes I feel like a failure, or at the very least I’m well aware that I have not lived up to all that so-called potential.
It gets worse. There are days I feel resentful of my kids who seemingly prevent me from becoming all I can be. Unfortunately, I tend to value my intelligence and ability to think about “more important” things, over my ability to love my kids well and invest in their development.
It’s not just us SAHMs who struggle with the potential-achievement gap. I’ve watched my husband hop from job to job, while his appetite for fulfillment continues to growl. I think to some degree we all obsess about this, evidenced by countless books and courses to help us find our purpose, passion, and perfect job. I’m not suggesting these are bad or unhelpful pursuits. I’ve engaged in these searches myself with a measure of success and satisfaction. But what if our fulfillment requires something more than what we can show for our efforts at the end of the day?
It Really Is All About Love
I’ve mentioned that I’m reading David Benner’s book, Surrender to Love*, and it’s so good that I’m going to quote him again. He suggests that love, rather than achievement, is both our source and our fulfillment.
Creation is an outpouring of love – an overflow of love from the heavens to the earth. Creation not only declares the inventiveness and resourcefulness of God but reveals the abundance of his love. Creation declares that humans are born of love and for love, created in the image of a God who is love. Love is our source and love is to be our fulfillment.”
What if Benner is right? What if finding fulfillment does not come from what we do, achieve, or produce, but who we love and how we love?
Jesus says the greatest commandments are summed up in love, to love God and love our neighbor. He says that eternal life, true abundant life, is knowing the Father and Jesus Christ. This refers to an intimate knowing and loving. So there must be something to this love thing. And yet we don’t, (I don’t,) live with this as the highest goal. I don’t pursue love as my ultimate fulfillment. Instead, most times that I could be loving, I see as a nuisance or a distraction to the things I’m trying to get done. What if my so-called important tasks get in the way of what could bring me true fulfillment?
Finding Fulfillment Right Where I Am
All of a sudden, I see my vocation as a mother, especially one that stays at home, in such a different light. Perhaps I’m not stuck at all. Perhaps what has felt a hindrance to my fulfillment can actually become a source for it. If I truly view love as my source and my fulfillment I could slow down, and people would become more important than tasks. Even my life with God would become more about His affection for me than about my behavior.
What difference would it make in your life if you believed that love is your source and your fulfillment?