Living Someone Else’s Life

Living Someone Else’s Life

Written by: Joseph Koh (Photo by: Zann Lee)

How do you find your calling?

Have you ever looked at a person and thought, “Woah, I sure wished I had his life. He has it all going on.”

I surely have.

When I was living overseas for a brief stint, I got to know a youth pastor who was also a freelance writer for one of the top independent magazines today. He had a keen eye for photography and design, and travelled regularly around Europe with his wife. Their life was effervescent with an ease and joy, like a breezy summer vacation.

On several occasions, I caught myself thinking that this man was actually embodying my idea of the perfect life. I coveted for something similar, believing that his life was significantly better than mine.

We can spend much of our lives hankering to be more than what we currently are. Fascinated by others who are seemingly able to do it all, we can be charmed by this illusion. In this brittle, lonely place, we look to someone as the standard — this more generous, fitter, and more fulfilled person. We make valiant attempts to inch closer and closer to this bar, fuelled by the belief that we will get there as long as we try hard enough.

Over the course of my life, I have secretly glanced at others in envy for a gamut of reasons: intellect, charisma, kindness, success, and the elusive trait of having-it-all-together. These feelings surface from time to time, like floating refuse that appears upon the sea waters. I wanted to be just like these persons, more than I willed to admit.

In the beauty of retrospect, I have had a propensity to feel this way whenever I was unsure of my calling. I looked at others for answers while trundling clumsily through the first half of university — I simply did not know what I was made to do. Somehow tracing God’s hand in my life proved to be frustrating, akin to eating air.

At one point in time, I considered going into full-time ministry; on another occasion, I got charmed by the pizzazz of a management consultant; there also were passing moments where I longed to champion a worthy cause at an NGO. A year on after graduation, I cannot be further away from these fields.

It is convenient to glance sideways at others when we feel clueless about life, in which we replicate their goals as our goals. Droves of undergraduates zealously pursue the “template” career of an investment banker or doctor, probably because they are today’s common representations of success. Yet, if we callously take on someone else’s assignment due to the grandiosity of its impact, our lives could be just like the duelling Battlestar Galactica rollercoasters, intersecting but never ending at the same destination.

It dawned on me recently that I had been so caught up in the quintessential Christian search: Finding one’s calling.

As Christians, we believe that there is Someone who knows us and calls us by name, in the same way that Samuel was roused from his sleep by a whisper and how a few fishermen left everything they had behind to follow someone they barely knew. Yet, in the madness of youth, this Voice that calls us to something greater doesn’t always resound like a drum in our heart. Contrary to popular belief, I am certain that one’s calling is more often forged than found.

We have all been called to two great commandments (Matthew 22:35-40): Love God and love your neighbour. When we remain committed to diligently seek our Father and serve His people, our calling shall start to take its shape and form. We step onto the winding path that leads to our destiny when we stop searching and start serving.

One of the best advice I’ve ever received was when a former mentor encouraged me to step outside of fear and try out new things, skills, and interests. She spurred me to mentor youths in my church, and astutely reminded me that I was too young to be afraid of failure. Seven years on, investing in the next generation remains as one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve made in my entire life, and I can no longer envision a life without it.

Clarity of destiny did not appear out of nowhere ready to coronate me, but was found through tireless forging. Life is a potpourri of tiny moments and choices — it requires much time and effort, discordant from the dazzle and drama of movies. At the same time, God is supporting us with every undertaking; we can rest in the knowledge that He shapes and works through our desires (Philippians 2:13).

As I walk more confidently into my destiny, I have also learnt that I am less envious of someone else’s life when I keep within Jesus’ shadow. It reacquaints me to the truth that this life is about bringing Him fame and not finding mine. Our hearts are deceitful and can readily convince us that building His Kingdom is less important than building our own — in living for the “now.”

John 3:30 (ESV) needs to be marked upon our hearts: “He must increase; I must decrease.” There is an impetus to surrender our own desires and interests daily, with us crowning Jesus as not only our Saviour but our Lord.

When our lives are a PSI 400 grey, where we can barely see what is front of us, let us not be bent on asking, “What do You want me to do, God?” Instead, we should ask, “God, what do You want to do in me?” The latter question frees us from squinting our eyes and straining our necks to discern His will for our future; it prompts us to confidence that He has got it all covered. When this perspective is correct, so will the vision for our lives.

If you’ve always felt like you were groping in the dark when it comes to your calling, stop waiting to be that person you’ve always thought you were on the verge of becoming. The moment that you’re looking for — where the film score soars to a crescendo — is unlikely to happen. Instead, commit yourself to a life of service. Try something new; do that one thing that has lingered at the back of your mind for years.

As you hide in Jesus’ shadow and serve His people, you’ll surely find Life’s assignment. He is the only person able to give us an earthly task that seamlessly joins our hand and heart as one.

JOSEPH thinks that Nasi Lemak ought to be Singapore’s national dish. He is passionate in discovering how faith can collide beautifully with urban culture, and believes in mentoring the next generation. He also wishes that a singular Singaporean accent will emerge in his lifetime. Follow him @firesandtimbers.

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