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Thinking Time

Every Saturday Maddie goes to horseback riding lessons, and the countryside commute before and after has become one of my favorite times of the week. As we drive out to the stable Maddie visibly relaxes, and the country air and quiet roads are almost a truth serum for the girl; a couple miles into the drive she starts talking and usually doesn’t stop until we’re there. The topic’s never the same – just whatever’s on her heart.

This past Saturday Maddie seemed to be thinking a lot about the future.

“Mom,” she began, “I’m not sure I know what I want to be when I grow up. Is that bad?”

This from a seven-year-old.

“No, honey, that’s not bad at all,” I said firmly. “You have years to decide what you want to do when you grow up, and you may change your mind even after you’re an adult! You may discover new passions your whole life.”

“Sometimes I wish I lived in a country where I didn’t have a choice about what I was going to do when I grow up,” she said, “and someone just told me what I had to do. Then I wouldn’t have to figure it out.”

I proceeded carefully. “I can certainly understand why not having to make a choice would be attractive. But maybe the reason you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up is because you have so many passions right now, it’s hard to limit yourself to just one future!”

Maddie nodded. “I mean, I feel like God’s calling me to help the poor people, maybe in Africa. I think maybe I’ll grow up to organize toys and things they need over there, and take supplies to poor countries. But I’m also passionate about animals, and love being around them.”

“I can totally see both of those things,” I smiled. “You have a big heart for helping others, and a strong sense of justice that may well come into whatever you do as a grown-up. But I also see how much you enjoy being around animals.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “I do enjoy being around people some, but if I’m around too many people for a long time, I get kind of ‘blech, I’m done!’ with them and I want everyone to go away. When I go horseback riding it’s just me and the horse, and I can be outside in nature listening to the birds chirp and the crickets talk and the wind blow and – I just love being outside, and I don’t feel stressed around animals the way I do sometimes around people.”

She sits back, still thinking hard.

“You know, honey,” I said, “the great thing here is that you don’t have to decide right away. You’ve got years still to explore your passions and figure out what you want to pursue. And there may be a time in your life when what you’re passionate about isn’t your job, but something outside your job. And that will be ok. But I guarantee you, if God’s calling you to something, He will definitely give you a passion for it. You won’t be called to something you hate, I promise.”

Maddie smiled, satisfied, and was silent the last few minutes of the drive.

When did she grow up? And why is it necessary?


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