The question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” annoys me. Usually I am asked this question during some sort of interview or work meeting, and I always want to respond, “I have no idea where I will be in 5 years!”
Technically, that answers the question, “where will you be in 5 years?” All I am ever really asked is where I want to be in 5 years.
But to me, these are the same question.
If I said, I want to be _____ in 5 years, that is like making a promise to myself that I will be ____ in 5 years. I highly value responsibility and when I say I am going to do something, I make sure it gets done.
This becomes problematic for me, because I’ve learned life doesn’t actually work according to 5 year plans, or at least not my plans.
There are twists and turns and unexpected events along the way.
One of two things usually happens to me:
- I remain laser focused on my goal, and end up fighting the new path laid out for me.
- I end up so far off track that it feels like a whole different life path branched off the instant I made my goal. This leaves me disappointed and feeling like I failed because I never reached my goal.
Either way, I end up somewhere I never imagined myself to be, which reminds me, I am not actually the one in control.
James explains it well:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Now please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying you should never make plans. James isn’t saying this either, in verse 15 he says we are to submit our plans to God’s will. This requires having a plan in the first place; but it also requires being willing to listen for God’s prompting and to change our plan at any time.
You see, try as we may to follow God’s will for our life, we get off track (at least I hope I am not the only one this happens to). Or perhaps more commonly, we try to keep going on the first track he put us on, even when he wants us to move.
It reminds me of my husband’s students learning their spots on the football field for marching band. They learn a particular spot; but inevitably things shift and my husband tries to move someone. The usual response is “but this is where you put me, it’s my spot.”
The problem is “their spot” no longer fits into the larger picture being formed. The student just can’t see this standing on the field, even though it is obvious to someone looking down from above.
The same thing happens in our lives. We may be diligently living right where God placed us, but he will most likely ask us to move at some point. Sometimes these changes don’t make sense. We may even respond “but this is where you put me!”
In these situations, it is important to remember our perspective; we simply can’t see the whole picture.
In his commentary on James, Douglas Moo said “This life cannot be properly understood without considering the spiritual realm, a realm that impinges on and ultimately determines the material realm in which we live day to day.”
He is essentially saying, there are things influencing our life we cannot see, but God sees them. In fact he is the only one who can see the whole picture; what was, is, and is to come. This is why Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to place our trust in God.
Please notice that Proverbs 3:6 assures us there is a path, and God will make it known to us...it doesn’t say how much of the path he will reveal.
Now, if God ever wanted to reveal a 5 year plan to me, I would happily accept. In fact I would be thrilled to know exactly what was going to happen for the next 5 years. But until then, I will follow God’s guidance month by month, week by week, and even day by day.