Did any of you catch ‘Call the Midwife’ on PBS (or BBC) last year? Oh my goodness I cried through the vast majority of it. If I wasn’t feeling the pain of every laboring woman, I was bawling at the conditions of London in the 1950s. My grandmother, my Bedstemor, Anni McCrum, raised 3 young children in a London flat in the same era. And then there’s just plain old homesickness. It doesn’t hit very often anymore but when it does it strikes me by surprise and delivers a quick one-two punch to my heart.
Mum got me the book for Christmas and somehow, despite the craziness of life with three little children, I managed to devour all 966 pages. The author, Jennifer Worth speaks at the very end about ambition. “Ambition is a double-edged sword. One side will cut through stagnation and lead to a new life; without ambition, mankind would still be living in caves. But the other side can be destructive, leading to feelings of loss and regret.”
We are an ambitious bunch aren’t we? It has never been so clear to me than when I listen to my children’s conversations. For my six-year-old, it is apparently vitally important how old everyone is. Should it be discovered that he is older, he wears the fact like a trophy. Should someone else have conquered in the age department, he will not rest until he has established that he is taller, faster or louder.
Likewise, my four-year-old looks longingly at any other little girl whose hair is past their shoulders and then rushes home to look in the mirror, her eyes gleaming as she tilts her head to the side and pulls on her hair, “Look Mummy, mine is past my shoulders too.”
“Yes, Niela,” I respond. “You have beautiful hair.”
I don’t like to burst her bubble as she jumps to her feet and twirls in happiness, her hair bobbing sweetly around her chin.
Our sense of ambition is important and has driven many to success but the older I get; the more I have reevaluated the place of ambition and success in my life. Both drove me for many years as I found my sense of self and purpose in their grasp. It is only very recently that I have begun to redefine my ambitions.
The children have started to initiate conversations about what they will be when they grow up, or what they should be. Most of the time I just turn the question right back at them, “what do you want to be?” It’s a topic that I want to negotiate carefully because just a few years ago I would have drilled into them the importance of working hard, doing their best and getting into a good university. I would have pushed to help them figure out what they were going to ‘do with their lives.’
And yet there has been a shift. It was subtle for a while as I slowly let go of many of the things that had previously defined me. My ambitions have changed and I want to communicate well to my children as the subject of their future comes up.
Rolland Baker (Heidi Baker’s husband) recently said, “You only have one job – getting closer to Jesus.”
And I realized that this reality is my ambition. Everything else that I do, that I accomplish, that I succeed in is secondary to knowing Him. In fact, everything else I do or achieve is simply because of Him.
I am just days away from completing my first novel, ‘Bedstemor’, a project that, for all intents and purposes has been brewing for almost 12 years and has been labored over for four. There has been a constant reassessing of my ambition with this book. The conclusion I have come to is that its success can be measured by my walk with Jesus, and whether or not it draws others to pursue Him.
So, when I talk to my children and help them walk the path to adulthood, I want to help them fall on the right side of that double-edged sword. I want my children to be ambitious, happy, and successful and to do what they love to do. I will encourage, sacrifice and support them in all of their endeavors, but my one hope is that wherever their ambition leads them in life, that it will always lead them closer to Jesus.
That is where I am too. I’ve never been more ambitious and yet I’ve never been more surrendered. I listen to His voice and then I follow, never wanting to stray more than a heartbeat away.