As my small frame walked into school that day, I could barely contain my 6 year old excitement. All week my teachers had been telling us, "You can be anything you set your mind to." "What do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything!" From the moment career day was announced there was never a doubt or question. I wanted to be...... (Enter dramatic music of intense anticipation followed quickly by a resounding drum roll here!) I wanted to be The Little Mermaid. I had waited patiently all week to reveal my future ambition. As my classmates bustled with excitement on all sides of me, showing off their lab coats, firemen helmets, and police badges, I stood proudly in my best and brightest Ariel t- shirt with earrings and necklace to match. As Tina, my friend and future astronaut, greeted me at our seats, I was so excited to describe to her, in vivid details, all that life as a mermaid would look like. Yet, upon looking at my shirt she simply seemed puzzled. I decided she must be a bit slow, so I would humor her lack of excitement for my future. I explained, sang, and for the most part, put on an entire visual presentation of life under the sea all before the teacher ever called the class to order. Then to my little 6 year old horror, she began to laugh at me. She informed me that this was career day and there wasn't any possible way that one day I would grow up and become The Little Mermaid. I was heart broken. I had never realized that the entire week we were talking about jobs, and not dreams.
Sadly, Tina was correct, indeed, I did not sprout fins and run away with Flounder. But the other part of the message I picked up that day, was dreams don't exist. As I grew older I still dreamed, but never quite to the depth of the ocean of imagination I once had ventured too. My life then became about becoming qualified enough, measuring enough to be counted worthy for the things I set my mind too. Even in ministry I seemed to have my hands in it all. From media to drama to worship band, there wasn't much I didn't feel the need to try and add to my list of accomplishments. It wasn't until I was 21 years old and off the missions field that I realized all that I had worked to accomplish really didn't add up to me feeling qualified for anything. I had a handful of random talents and some tricks of the trade that didn't equal a career or a job. I felt completely unqualified to even serve Jesus. Yet the reality of the situation was, I was stepping on the teetering scale of the world's standard, hoping to be found approved. I had missed out on all the areas through out my life where God was equipping, calling, and qualifying me for a life marked by depths of adventure. As a small child I yearned to live in the depths of the ocean, surrounded by mystery and wonder beneath the surface of the life I knew. God had placed that desire inside of my heart. Sure, it appeared in the form of a bright purple little mermaid t- shirt, but God has, in fact, created me to dream and to seek out the depth and mysterious of His heart. If I look to the numbers carved on the face of the world I will never measure or be enough to make a difference, but it's God and His scales of mercy and grace that have called me to be set apart. I have heard it said that God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called and this statement rings so true in my life these days. I have never taken a business class, yet I manage a coffee shop at a ministry; I didn't exactly follow through with nursing, yet I bandage the broken hearted; I have never even attempted a law degree, but I get to proclaim freedom for the captives. In a world marked with beautiful educational opportunities, careers, and dreams, I daily get to live out mine. My favorite part is everyday I feel my sweet Savior telling me to dream even bigger. I have the best Job, Career, Dream, Life. Everyday that you serve Him you are qualified!
Ashley Ruffin is a missionary to the inner-city in Jackson, Mississippi. Click here to visit her WMA page.