6. Failure to Fulfill Personal Ideals
In our young adult years our personal ideals begin to clarify. We idealize the type of spouse we want. We idealize the type of career we want. We idealize the type of life we want to live on an assortment of levels. For the super long-range thinkers, we idealize how and where we want to grow old. As the seasons of life come and go and those personal ideals remain elusive, many people point the finger inward and give oxygen to that nagging not good enough feeling. If the feeling goes unchecked long enough, it becomes a deluge that floods and drowns the person's self-esteem and self-efficacy.
See Chapter 5
In Chapter 5 I discussed existential value versus practical ability, so I will only briefly rehash and reapply what I explained there. Areas of life that are extremely practical, like vocation or romance or finances, require practical ability. Practical ability, in turn, requires a diligent investment in learning and development. Solomon wrote numerous proverbs emphasizing precisely this. When we fail to fulfill personal ideals we have to honestly ask ourselves, "Is it really that I am not good enough as a person, or, am I simply not proficient and developed enough in that particular area so as to reach my personal ideal in that area?" Instead of beating ourselves up existentially (feeling not good enough as a person), we can approach personal ideal failures more wisely by evaluating if we simply need more learning and transformation.
God's Plan & Timing, The Uncontrollable Variable
Sometimes, however, we fail to reach a personal ideal not because of a lack of practical caliber, but because the Lord Himself blocked us. He had/has a different plan or different timing for that particular area of our life. The only way to perceive this is to have a close daily relationship with Him built on a focused daily meeting with Him before your day starts (Mk 1:35).
A word of admonition here. Many Christians are simply lazy, so they prefer to say something was not God's will or God's timing as an excuse for a lack of preparation and development. Be honest. God's sees your deepest motive. If you fail to fulfill a personal ideal because of a lack of practical caliber in that area, then own it humbly and get to training. But do not ever pin your personal ideal failures on "God's will" or "God's timing" if you know deep down you have not done your part. When it is truly God Himself blocking us, He will eventually make it clear in that daily meeting with Him. We do not have to lie to ourselves or others. He will reveal it so we can adapt in whatever way we need to stay in step with Him.
Idolizing Personal Ideals, The Controllable Variable
While it is not wrong or sinful to have personal ideals, and while God is willing to benevolently grant them or a modified version of them (Ps 145:19, Pr 10:24, Jn 15:7, 1Ti 6:17), He often has to issue judgment on those ideals because we are idolizing them. We want them more than God Himself, His presence, His voice. We want them more than spiritual growth and transformation. We want them more than we want our vocational calling in the kingdom. And so a holy God, who will not tolerate any gods beside Him, must block or hinder or corrode our idolatrous pursuit of those ideals. Lest you think God does not judge idolatry among His people in the New Covenant, read the following New Testament scriptures humbly.
1Peter 4:17 (ESV, underline mine): For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Hebrews 12:5,6 (ESV): ...My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
1Corinthians 11:29-32 (ESV, underline mine): For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
What do we do with these scriptures? We keep our personal ideals on the bronze altar of sacrifice (during times of yearning and preparation) and the altar of incense (during times of prayer). We refuse to think about the desires of our hearts more than we worship, pray, dig into the Word, and work on whatever God is telling us to work on. We fight by His presence to keep those ideals and desires underneath His feet. Then, when the best time and variables come together providentially, He will grant those ideals or He will reformulate them in your heart to better synchronize with His purpose.