Invisible Contracts

What Should I Do With My Life, a New York Times bestseller, details the lives of people who changed careers to pursue their dreams, facing uncertainty, conflict, setbacks, and hope.

It’s an addictive book. I haven’t put it down for long. I suppose that’s because I’m looking at the choices I’m making with my life, now that it is finally mine.

For so long, I didn’t see it that way. My life was always about someone else. It was the sum of countless obligations and compromises made to please others: parents, siblings, teachers, bosses, lovers, children, friends—all the people who depended on me.

Another New York Times bestseller begins with the famous line: “It’s not about you.” But, it never was about me (not directly, anyway). From childhood I was taught to defer to others. I was schooled in giving, accustomed to sacrifice. Others’ needs took precedence.

An unspoken contract spelled out the rewards for this behavior. If I’m good, you will love me. If I do what you want, you will make me happy. If I work hard, my job will be safe. If I go to church, read the Bible, and pray, God will take care of me. Nothing bad will ever happen to me.

The problem with unspoken contracts is that other parties don’t keep them. They guarantee failure, betrayal and disappointment, and eventually you realize you never could enforce them. Then, you quit blaming and take responsibility. You own your choices. You give up the childish hope that someone else will handle things. You grow up.

Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23)

A mature faith understands the cost of following Jesus. It doesn’t hold God to invisible contracts. It takes responsibility. You own your life, and choose freely to give it to him—because that is the only way you can keep it, in the end.

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