It did not make sense anymore if it ever did. Somehow I signed up for JROTC my freshman year of high school. Awkward. Some kids (mostly girls interestingly enough) from the local high school (they were so cool) came over to my eighth grade math class and announced to us this really neat high school course on leadership that looks great on college applications. Two words were all I heard: leadership and college. Okay, I’ll sign up then. Sounds good to me.
First day of freshman year went something like this:
“ATTEN-SHUN! Feet together! Shoulders back! Arms down! Look ahead! Eyes front! As you were.” A massive man in Army dress uniform shouted orders at us like we were about to work a prison camp. I looked at my class schedule and saw “Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.” Oops. My first thought was, “How did I not see this?” and my second thought was, “How soon can I change my schedule?” Is basket weaving a thing?- because that sounds way more interesting (and less aggressive) than this.
But as the hour went on I became compelled by Lt. Colonel Armstrong, Master Sergeant Poole, and the upperclassmen as they shared stories of teamwork, leadership development, and character building. I thought, “Well, this doesn’t seem so bad.” The drill team and color guard performed (kind of like dancing in a way, I thought), the older students shared how JROTC helped them improve their overall studies, and then there were the boys in those uniforms. Okay, I think I can manage this.
And I did manage it my whole freshman year. I even competed in the National Drill Team Competition- dress uniform and all. But, by summer I decided to give it up and not enroll in JROTC in the fall. I had no reason to continue with it, and college wasn’t a good enough reason. I could work harder in my classes, do more community service, and focus on the after school clubs I was a part of, but the military was never on my radar. I gave up JROTC after one year because I lost my “why.”
Truth is, I never had a why when I enrolled in that class.
But I have a why now. I have a why as a wife- Because I love him and made a vow to him at the altar before God and before our friends and family. I have a why as a mom- Because I love them and they need me right now and I am responsible to nurture them while they are under my care. I have a why in homeschooling- Because this is what God has called me to do right now and He has given me a vision to educate and disciple my children in truth, goodness, and beauty. I have a why in ministry- Because of the love I have been shown through Christ I cannot help but extend love to others. The why is what keeps me going, because I have to embrace the philosophy or purpose first before I practice anything. Have you ever signed up for something and then regretted it? JROTC wasn’t the first commitment I regretted. There were others, but eventually I learned to find my why before I signed the dotted line. The decisions get only more complex (and some a way bigger deal) as I get older, so the why has become crucial in my focus and investments.
Knowing the why keeps us from false guilt over not doing what she is doing over there, or what that other woman is doing over here. The why for you may not be the why for her, and that is okay- in fact, that is great! God has uniquely wired us to do certain tasks and fulfill specific roles that are designed for us in a particular time and place. He has woven our lives with people in varying circumstances that make us who we are. And the more you embrace your why, the more I am inspired to embrace mine.
Here is why you need to know your WHY:
- The why is what will keep you going for the long haul. When burnout sets in or you get weary from the work, remembering your why will help you continue moving forward when the going gets tough.
- The why will inspire you with new ideas. If you know your why you will be fueled with creativity and inspiration through the journey.
- The why underlines the “whats” with purpose. Even the most menial tasks are significant if they undergird the why.
What the WHY is not:
- The why is not about knowing the outcome.
- The why is not controlling every circumstance or person we come across.
- The why is not having all of the answers.
Knowing your why is not a magic formula for success. The why is what we say when we pause, sit back in our chairs and think, “What am I really doing here? What am I after?” And most importantly, we hope in God. We wait for God in the why, because even youths grow tired and weary and young men shall fall exhausted. Renewed strength comes in the waiting, not in the walking (see Isaiah 40:30-31). Burnout comes upon even the most motivated, so the why must find its rightful place at the feet of Jesus. We surrender the why once we know what it is we are after. And the why may change over time. The important thing to keep in mind is that we are not aimless, but determined both in reason and in action. There is rest for us. Knowing the why helps us eliminate distractions so that we can embrace what we are uniquely designed for.