What was your dream job as a child? For a time, I wanted to be a paleontologist. Paleontology is the study of what fossils tell us about the past. Intriguingly, a young girl a few years younger than I who lived a couple of hundred miles away and who is now my wife also yearned to be a paleontologist. We both were fascinated by dinosaurs. I had a special interest in triceratops. Wooly mammoths and the study of ancient plants also piqued my interest in that field of study. Neither of us grew up to be a paleontologist but in 2017 we visited a paleontology site in South Dakota, an active dig and museum focused primarily on mammoths, but also on other animals and plants that like them had fallen into a prehistoric lake at that site. The lake is no longer there, but the skeletons of the animals are. We enjoyed our visit immensely.
I considered other career paths as possibilities while I was growing up. At different times, teaching school, being a soldier, preaching, and being a lawyer entered my imagination as I pondered what the future might hold for me. The Apollo space program prompted dreams of being an astronaut. Later I briefly would earn certification, then teach English and history in a public high school. I would serve in the Army for over twenty years. While in the Army, I even applied to be an astronaut, but was quickly rejected. But the dream that won out was preaching, which besides my working with local churches, was part of what I did as a Chaplain in the Army. That dream began to crystallize one day when I visited my preacher father’s office and noticed a biography of a colorful preacher, Raccoon John Smith, on a bookshelf. Dad said that I could borrow it, so I laid down on the floor and plunged into Smith’s nineteenth century adventures in frontier ministry. His humor, his humility, and his love for Christ made me want to be a preacher like him. My father also was a good role model.
My study of the Bible at times has overlapped with paleontology. God speaks to Job of creatures named Behemoth and Leviathan. Scholars still debate what they were, but the first hearers or readers of the book of Job knew what they were. The prophet Ezekiel tells in chapter 37 of his book of being taken to a valley filled with dry human bones. God brings the desiccated army back to life, a sign of how God’s people may be revitalized.
I remember vividly praying about beginning and continuing my ministry as a Chaplain in the Army. I was in my mid-thirties and for all my career was older than most of those with whom I hiked, ran, and crawled as we trained, then deployed into dangerous locations. I also prayed when teaching in school and especially when preaching in civilian contexts. I prayed for wisdom, but also that I would do my work well. That is a prayer that any of us can pray whatever our employment is, whether it is our dream job or not. Paul wrote what some have described as a prayer about work in Colossian 3:15-17:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
I still dream of what I may do in the future. I still pray for wisdom and for courage. May you do the same. Pray hard and work fearlessly for God, whatever your task may be.
- Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.
Lord, May we remember the dreams of our childhood and how those visions of our future excited us. May we know that kind of joy when we contemplate the future now and wonder how you will employ us in the years to come. Give us wisdom, but also fill us with courage and dogged determination so that whatever we do, we may do it well with gratitude to you in our hearts. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.