“The world says ‘you can be anything’, but God does not want you to be ‘anything’, He created you to be ’something’.” — J. R. Miller

At the bottom of my blog, you  might have noticed a random quote from me in section called “I said…”  Most of these quotes come from my posts on “More Than Cake” and provide the context for understanding them.  However, one of my readers recently asked about the above quote which had no further context on my blog.  So for Melody, and everyone else who is interested, here is the short answer to what it means.

A Play On Words

First, the quote relies on an old speakers trick of creating play on words to grab attention.  Years ago when I was a pastor to teenagers, I found this particular turn of phrase very helpful in getting kids to listen… apparently it still works.

Practically Speaking

When most people tell a kid, “you can be anything you want in life” I understand what they are driving at.  They are attempting to encourage a kid to work hard and dream big.  The goal is admirable, but impractical.   The phrase is not helpful because no person is equipped to be “anything” they want in life.  Take my own life as an example.  I was born with a neurological condition that inhibits my eyesight.  Consequently, I am nearsighted and my depth perception is not the best.  One sport I was never good at was baseball.  Standing in the outfield looking into the sky for that little white ball was an impossible task and if I did happen to see it, chances are the ball was close enough to hit me in the head before I could catch it.  Now imagine I had a childhood dream of playing in the Big Leagues and some well meaning adult told me, “go for it Joe, you can be anything you want to be.”  Would that have been true?  No.  Maybe it would make the adult feel good, but it would have only lead me down a path of discouragement and failure.  I call it the “American Idol Syndrome”   Watch the show sometime.  The show is full of delusional people who were told by well meaning adults, “you can be a star.”   Filled with dreams and no talent, people come and audition.  They walk off the set rejected, humiliated and cursing the judges. Parents and friends keep feeding their “be anything” delusions—yet in truth no one person can be “anything”.  Success in this life is realizing your options are limited, finding something you are good at and then becoming something that is suited with your natural abilities.

Spiritually Speaking

Beyond the practical aspects, I think the message of “you can be anything” leads to spiritual emptiness.  The message itself assumes there is no plan or purpose in life beyond the meaning each person can give it through personal accomplishment.  When a teenager struggles to fulfill their dreams, they begin to experience the emptiness of the “anything” life.  On the other hand, the Bible gives an alternative picture of the “something” life.  The Scriptures tell us that God created each one of us for a purpose.  He has a plan for us. He created us with natural talents and gifts so that we could be something and do something with our lives.  When we live in accordance with that “something”, we experience real joy and satisfaction in life.

In brief, this is why I discourage people from trying to be “anything” and challenge them to discover God and be the “something” He has created them to be.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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