I grew up with a lot of positive reinforcement and believing in Jesus has both shrunk and supersized that.
On the one hand, ambition can be a bad word because it implies arrogance. I have become less self-effacing, more confident, over the years, but I doubt anyone I know would describe me as ambitious.
There is still this idea that ambition is a cut-throat attitude, seeking to elevate yourself regardless of the cost to others.
Um … not me.
But y’know what, I am ambitious.
And I’m going to start owning that.
Can I change the world?
I don’t need to be prime minister of Australia (though we like to joke about that). I don’t need thousands and thousands of views on this blog.
Because actually, I want more than that. I want to change the world.
I want to tackle the difficult, big things that other people put in the too hard basket. I want to make an eternal difference.
It’s something I’ve wrestled with because deeply rooted in my psyche and in my faith is a belief that the world is a broken place.
It’s a place that needs to be changed. But it’s a place that will never be perfect because it is, to use the biblical term, fallen. (Eg. poverty must be eliminated, but human endeavour will never eliminate it because injustice is embedded into human nature and all of our structures).
So what do I do with a worldview like this?
God is changing the world
In 2013, I posted this as my Facebook cover image.
This was born of years of wanting to make a difference, and a couple of years of seeing that big change happens in the smallest of exchanges.
A kind word of encouragement.
A single dollar.
Simply being at the right place at the right time (and here I’m talking not about chance, but about obedience).
One person speaking up.
God hasn’t abandoned this planet. He still has a plan to bring justice and restoration here – and this begins not in the distant future but in the here and now.
I started to get Hebrews 11. I started seeing myself as a sower, seeing the fruit to come – even when I couldn’t see any immediate results.
I started to get Isaiah 6: “Here I am. Send me!” I started to see that I could change the world right where I stood if I embraced the fact that God wanted to use me, work through me.
Ambition, for me, is seeing what amazing things God is already doing – and stepping up to join in His work.
The sublime in the pedestrian
Kierkegaard has this brilliant line in his thought-provoking Fear & Trembling, where he speaks of faith as being when we “express the sublime in the pedestrian.”
Think about it.
Keep thinking about it.
I’ve spent the last few weeks chewing on this idea. An “ordinary life” is not enough for me, I won’t deny that. But in pursuing an extraordinary life, I need to be careful not to neglect the ordinary in my life.
But, also: put the extra in ordinary.
Because the ordinary is part of the plan.
The pedestrian – the mundane – is a fact of life. Perhaps a sad fact, if you’re a dreamer (or “ambitious”). Yet one of the toughest but most important things to do is to express the sublime there.
The thing is not to replace the mundane with the sublime, but rather to express the sublime right there in the mundane.
That, I think, is what you call transcending.
Am I being too ambitious?
This post was inspired by this video conversation and the related small group discussion. I recommend it as a resource, although I think my own definition of godly ambition is both bigger and bolder than the one the video provides (“Christian ambition is the passionate and contented pursuit of challenging, yet attainable, God-given objectives”).