I’ve been avoiding this question for a long time. Not because I don’t know the answer (honestly the answer hasn’t changed much over the past decade), but because I didn’t believe it was possible. This question has been a source of pain to me, and so I ran away from it. Now, however, I find that the answer is changing. Not entirely, there are some aspects that are still the same, but others have been added, and some have been removed, and the priorities have shifted some I think. So, where do I want to be in five years?
In order of importance:
1) I want to be stronger in my relationship with God. To put a more specific goal on this, I would like to be entering St. Teresa’s sixth mansion. St. Teresa of Avila wrote a book called Interior Castle or The Mansions in which she delineates the spiritual experience of the Christian into seven ‘mansions’ that she describes in depth. At a guess I think that I am somewhere in her third or fourth mansion right now (not sure about that though, it’s a very subjective judgment and I don’t entirely trust myself). In five years I would like to be at least at the doorway to her sixth mansion, if not inside it.
2) I want to be content with wherever God has brought me. This could wind up precluding all of the goals that follow it, honestly. God has taken me many places that I didn’t want to go over the past thirteen years, and I don’t really expect that to stop. However, wherever God has me in fives years, whatever he has me doing, I want to be happy about it. I’ve written before about the fact that happiness has never really been a goal in my life. Well, now I’m making it one. However, as I said then, happiness doesn’t come simply from getting the things I want. I want to have eudaimonia, wherever I am.
3) I want to be married. I’ve said several times that I’m finally happy being single, and that’s true. God has me in a time of romantic solitude at the moment, and I’m finally learning to be okay with that. This is a wonderful thing. However, the desire to have a mate hasn’t left me. I am content to be single, but I still believe that God has someone for me, and that I will find that person someday. I hope that in five years this time of solitude will be over and God will have brought me that person. Maybe not, and if not then see goal number 2, but I hope that he will.
4) I want to be teaching. I’m already teaching, and I love teaching. This is a goal that I’ve already achieved and I don’t want that to change. However, as a sub-goal, I would like to be consistently making $30,000 a year teaching. Given my degrees that’s a little bit harder :P. We’ll see if that’s what God has planned for me. If not, then I think I’m already okay with that. Eudaimonia is not based on income. As another sub-goal, I would like to be out of debt on my credit card (this is actually a short-term goal), and have a significant portion of my student loans paid off.
5) I want to be in the middle of a doctoral program. Given my current academic standing I think five years is a realistic goal for this. I am sure that I’ll need to do a second master’s program before I can even be considered for any of the doctoral programs that I want to pursue. However, a two year masters starting say, fall of 2014, would land me in my second year of a doctoral program five years from now, if things go well. Again, I’m not entirely sure if this is where God is taking me. I want it to be, and there are a few people pushing me in this direction, but I’m not sure if it is. If not… well, I guess see goal two above.
So, this is where I want to be in five years. As I said, goals 1 and 2 trump everything else, and I am fully aware that achieving goal 2 might mean giving up goals 3, 4, and 5, but I have peace with that (right now at least). Making long-term plans is, in all honesty, difficult for me. I’ve seen too many plans and goals turn to dust, and I can’t explain how painful that is. Honestly, I’m not even going to try. Still, God has used that pain to make me a better person, a better man, and a better Christian.
Have you ever read the book Dune? It’s a phenomenal novel. Honestly, I’d argue that it’s the best science fiction novel ever written. Anyway, in Dune there is a prayer… well, they call it a prayer, really it’s more of a mantra… that the Bene Gesserit sisters use:
“I will not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. It is the little death that proceeds complete oblivion. I will let my fear pass over me and through me, and I will turn my inner eye to follow its path. When my fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I use this mantra on a regular basis, and with a little adaptation it can be equally applied to either physical or spiritual pain:
“I will not hurt. Pain is the mindkiller. It is the little death that leads me to oblivion. I will let my pain pass over me and through me, and I will turn my inner eye to follow its path. When my pain has gone, there will be nothing. Only God will remain.”
God leads us through times of pain and fear in order to stretch us, to grow us, and to draw us to himself. This is, after all, the primary goal of the Christian life, and so I will rely on God to scare me, to hurt me, and to take care of me when he does. I want to achieve the goals that I’ve listed above. They represent my hearts deepest desires. I often think of them as roses that I’ve sheltered and cared for through many terrible storms. Honestly, there have been times when they withered to the point that I thought they would die, but slowly, and with a lot of help, they’ve always been nurtured back to health. However, I have yet to see them bloom, and I truly, deeply want to.