Once you’ve made it to your mid-twenties, life can often be summarised by three words from the movie Finding Nemo: “just keep swimming.”
You’ve got bills to pay, a career to progress in, and possibly a wedding or your own little family to account for. There are plenty of motivators that will form their own little choir of Dorys, constantly encouraging you to “just keep swimming.”
These factors are so persuasive that when someone stops swimming to reconsider their life, it’s often framed negatively, as a quarter- or mid-life crisis.
But what if God doesn’t want you to “just keep swimming”?
Several months ago, my swimming was interrupted by a new career opportunity. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve wanted to be a Christian speaker and writer. It’s why, after 6 years studying law, I decided instead to work for a Christian organisation that speaks in schools.
However, this new job opportunity prompted me to ask the big, scary question: What if God isn’t calling me to continue down the road of being a Christian speaker and writer?
That, in turn, prompted a bunch of smaller questions. Should I keep writing every day? If I do, should it still be on this blog? Do I stop speaking at various Christian events?
If there’s one thing that’s nice when you “just keep swimming” it’s that life is a bit more comfortable, at least in the short term.
Asking myself has shaken me out of my comfort-zone. I’m still wrestling with some of them and living in that uncertainty isn’t super-fun. But if there’s one thing I am certain of, it’s that God wants us to ask the big questions.
As you read through the bible, a theme you’ll notice again and again is that prominent characters go through a period of testing before they go on to fulfil what could be considered their “calling.”
Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan three times before he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11).
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then thrown into prison by his master before eventually being elevated to an important position in government (Genesis 37-50).
Jacob literally had to wrestle a man (angel?) before being renamed “Israel” and becoming the father of the twelve tribes (Genesis 32).
God wants us to ask the big questions because it is a form of testing. When we are just swimming along on autopilot, it’s easy for negative thought patterns or behaviours to slip into our lives.
Wrestling with big questions brings these negative patterns into the light and forces us to address them. In the process, we are better prepared for whatever God is calling us to next.
While I was studying law at university, a hot-button topic that was of great interest to me was freedom of speech. One of the core arguments in favour of a society that protects free speech is that in order to discern truth, it is necessary to consider and critique different ideas in the public “marketplace.”
When an idea is critiqued in this way, there is one of two outcomes: either the idea fails to stand up to scrutiny and it is subsequently discarded, or it survives the critique and our confidence in the idea is strengthened.
God wants us to ask big questions for a similar reason; big question bring clarity. When we confront these questions, they will either highlight flaws in the way that we are thinking and living, or they will reinforce that we are on the right path.
In life, we will inevitably face seasons of doubt. It doesn’t matter how fulfilled or successful we are, there will be moments when we question whether we are really living the life that God has called us to.
When these moments come in my life, I want to know that I’ve already wrestled with the big questions. That way, rather than being plunged into a crisis of uncertainty, I’ll know that I’ve done my due diligence and that the choices I’ve made were properly considered.
Think about someone you admire, someone who truly changed the world. Whoever it is, I’m sure they didn’t accomplish that world-changing work with a “just keep swimming” mentality.
God wants us to ask big questions so that we remain open to big possibilities. God might not be calling you to be the next Paul of Tarsus or Mother Teresa, but he is definitely calling you to something. He doesn’t want you to miss that calling because you’re stuck in autopilot.
One of my favourite quotes is from the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” God wants us to ask big questions so that we don’t waste it.