Refining my ambition
A while ago I had a conversation with someone, which left me with an overwhelming feeling of being stuck. I felt my life was on idle when people were cruising at supernova speeds. Like I was sitting on a window watching other people excel, and at multiple enterprises. I did not feel the need to compete. But I felt the need to get into the ring, get busy, get moving, start projects, pursue another degree, buy a plot, fuga kuku kienyeji, sell shoes from my boot, grow watermelons, hawk plots, employ ten staff, run an empire from my kitchen, ahem, from a corner office on Chiromo lane. Something, anything, just chase the empire.
Where was my ambition? Where was my hunger for success and wealth and power? What was being happy with a small life when the world was my stage? Why was I letting others enjoy the cake by themselves while I watched from the sidelines?
A week before this incident, someone had shared a modern analogy of the Proverbs 31 woman and that woman can leave you feeling like a failure. I mean, here I am struggling to cook balanced meals or get my kids to school on time or exercise and this woman is running businesses, investing, travelling, raising kids, keeping a husband, employing several people, dressing to daze and I can bet she doesn't have a mommy belly or jiggly soldiers.
These two incidents stirred in me seeds of despair, discouragement, discontentment, of looking at my life and seeing all that was not happening- deferred dreams, unmet wants, unspoken ambitions, personal desires. The world noticed you when you scored on its terms- how much money are you making? Who knows you? Who do you influence? Where have you been? While I was busy forgetting what was right, where God was showing me tremendous favour. And when I weigh the scales, I have been blessed beyond measure. The devil just needed me busy chasing the next deal, the next cheque, being successful like.so and so and not focussing on bearing my own fruit, from my tree. Brenda fruit. I almost prayed, " God give me the shrewdness of the people of the world who run empire after empire." I really did almost pray that prayer. Because I felt I was blind to a system that is working for a lot of people and I needed to be there with the sharks, chasing cryptocurrencies, getting government tenders, setting up manufacturing plants, voting in global boardrooms.
Ambition is described as an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment ...
I was struggling between being hungry and not being hungry enough, then striving and not striving to succeed.
But why did I feel the need to chase these things? Why did I want to build a business empire? Why did I want connections and influence? Why did I want a seat at the table? A genuine is that I needed to meet real needs in my family and around me. But a greater part of me was set up by the system. This is the way it's supposed to be. Brenda you are supposed to chase those things. Everyone who is anyone is chasing them.
I remember a sermon I heard. Jesus could have been a great carpenter. Or fisherman (he knew where all the big catches were). Or conference speaker. Or teacher. But he didn't try to be those things. He was focused on his assignment. He didn't even heal all the people in Galilee and Capernaum. He focused on that which the Father had sent him to do.
Is there anything like succeeding at the wrong assignment?
Do we have specific assignments so we don't become busy bodies chasing our tails.
What was my assignment? Was I just ignorant and not hungry enough?
Asking the why question got me to search my motives for wanting to be ambitious. "One significant indication of Godly ambition is where it falls on the spectrum between selfishness and selflessness," notes ...
My ambition was because I wanted to feel successful. I wanted to feel like I'm not wasting talent, brains and resources. I wanted to feel I was exhausting everything given to me so I can live without regrets. i wanted to be ambitious for the sake of being ambitious, for fame for self sufficiency. Ambitious people are celebrated, not those leading quiet lives minding their business.
Following Christ means listening to what God wants for us in every season. Are there seasons God calls us to be mundane and ordinary, less ambitious?
Asking why also made me realise I was acting out of a fear of missing out. I was there thinking that this is the age to make money from cryptocurrencies or avocados and if I'm not in the boat then the boat will miss me and will regret it for the rest of my life as I see those who boarded the cruise line partying while I fish for omena on the shore.
I was driven by fear of being judged as less ambitious, less successful, being left behind by peers. Ambition gets big dreams accomplished for us and for God. But the fall of man was alsk due to ambition. Eve wanted more knowledge, more life. She wanted to be like God.
The tower of Babel too was a result of ambition. Even heaven noticed.
My trust in God falters in case he defines success differently from me. But I also don't want to be successful at the wrong assignment while I fail at mine. I want to do good at my purpose however small.
Assignment. Season. Purpose.
Secondly time is limited. We don't know how much longer we will be around hence the need to maximize our time on that which matters. What are the kingdom priorities?
God created us for himself. And especially, He saved us for himself.
An ambition to see Christ glorified, lives touched and changed is a good ambition. An ambition to bind up wounds, encourage the broken hearted and strengthen the weary is a good ambition. So is one to love like Jesus loves, to care for 'the least of these', to edify the body of Christ to maturity, to seek the lost, to see Christ magnified, to do all things for God.
"In the end, just as there are only two kinds of piety, the self-centered and the God-centered, so there are only two kinds of ambition: one can be ambitious for oneself or for God. There is no third alternative. Ambitions for self may be quite modest (enough to eat, to drink, and to wear, as in the Sermon [on the Mount]) or they may be grandiose (a bigger house, a faster car, a higher salary, a wider reputation, more power). But whether modest or immodest, these are ambitions for myself — my comfort, my wealth, my status, my power. Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambition for God.
God’s primary concern is not our accomplishments, it’s our heart. (1 Sam 16:7)"
Part of redeeming my ambition according to Colossians 3:1is that we are to set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated and not on earthly things.
What's in Christ's pulse and viewpoint as he sits beside his Father's throne? We must do the works of Him who sent us while its day, for night comes when no man can work? What are the works of Christ?
The spread of God's reign in all hearts.
Abiding in Him.
Spreading the good news, reconciling men to Himself.
Strengthening the Church.
Shining in a dark world and seasoning the earth.
Showcasing the goodness and glory of God.
God's kingdom is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who love according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)
I don't lack ambition for self. But part of my journey of dying to self is crucifying my ambitions, plans and dreams, surrendering these to God's arms to do with them as he pleases. He may give them back to me. He may not. He may make them larger than I could have ever made them. He may make the smaller and my heart fuller. Will I still be ok, if God doesn't make these things happen? If I don't receive these dreams back from the dead? If these things are not added to me as I seek first kingdom priorities? John Piper or Desiring God has a slogan: ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him."
Take stock of your wishlist. Is it just earth stuff or are you also investing in the concerns of God, in heavenly things? You see that list you wrote? Your heavenly Father knows you need those things (Matthew 6:32-33) and He says, "I gat it. You mind my business; I got yours." Stay on the task.
"God turn my heart from worthless Idols. Teach me your concerns rather than the concerns of man. Set my mind on you. Increase my satisfaction in you. For it's only in your will that I will be free."
Enjoy this song by James and Daniella.
My final comfort is from Psalm 100:3. There are many pastures out there, but we specifically have been called to be the sheep of his pasture. To be dependent on where he leads, what he feeds. To hear his call and hearken. To be contented with where he leads. To not wander far away from our shepherd and his pasture. To accept his protection and covering and correction. To feed from his pasture. It's only in your will Lord that I am free. Help me find my greatest satisfaction in you.