When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? That is a question that came up in my Facebook stream this year. Perhaps you saw it too. If so, what was your response?
I remember being asked the question in school when I was a Jr. High student. My answer then was: a Forest Ranger. I imagined myself in the neatly-pressed, green ranger uniform, patches on the sleeves, hat on my head, walkie-talkie on my belt, standing in a fire tower, looking out over the forest through giant binoculars. The picture in my mind is still as vivid today as it was then. I can see the tops of the trees all the way to the horizon, broken only by a river and some winding dirt access roads. There are birds in the air and other wildlife occasionally passing by on the ground, next to my Jeep. Yes, the forest ranger in my head drove a Jeep.
The follow-up question on social media went something like: …and are you doing that thing today?
If you know me now, you know that I am not a forest ranger. I am a pastor, serving as full-time hospice chaplain. Life takes us down many roads. Things change along the way and many of us end up doing something completely different than our childhood dreams. Ministry is my calling and I love the work I do, but there are still some elements of my childhood dream that are alive and well in my adult life.
Sharon and I have been campers the entirety of our marriage. In our early days, we would take a tent to Cook Forest, Pymatuning, or some other western Pennsylvania location. Our outdoor adventures did not let up when our children came along. We would shoe-horn all of our equipment into the trunk of the car, load the kids and head out to a woodsy site.
I may not be a ranger in the fire tower today, but we have climbed them. My uniform may not be that of the park employee, but my hiking gear does just as good a job at helping me feel connected to nature. I enjoy collecting sticks and starting a fire with my ferro rod. I enjoy a good meal, cooked over the campfire. Although we like the comforts of an RV, we are not beyond pitching a tent, and have on a few recent excursions.
God created each of us to be a one-of-a-kind treasure, molded together with interests, talents and dreams that are uniquely you. Take time to enjoy the path he has established for you. In so-doing, you will find that life is full of joy and the embers of your childhood dreams are still glowing within. They may not look like you envisioned them when you were young, but they have a way of weaving throughout the building blocks of who you have become.
My love for the outdoors converges with my faith as I ponder the origin of the trees; the feel of the ground under my feet; the crackle of the fire; the beauty of the vast night sky. Psalm 19:1 says it well: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. All of this natural beauty draws my attention toward God.
So, getting back to the question; are you living your childhood dream? If you are, congratulations on the unwavering dedication to make your dreams come true. I suspect, however, that many of us diverged onto another path, somewhere along life’s journey. If that is the case, are there elements of your childhood dream still alive in your experience today?
May you find joy as your childhood dream gets rekindled. Fan that spark into flame and see where it takes you. Perhaps we can share a campfire someday and reminisce about the journey. I’ll bring the hot dog sticks!
Pastor… or should I say… Ranger Randy