Kris Erlewine

“One must not always think so much about what one should do, but rather what one should be. Our works do not ennoble us; but we must ennoble our works.”  —Meister Eckhart


Sometimes having limits on our choices is not as troubling as having too many choices and trying to decide which is the best choice for us.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word success means “the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.” Achieving success can be easy or difficult, depending on what you desire, plan, or attempt. Getting my coffee brewed in the morning (except on the dreariest Mondays) hardly compares to the success of being admitted to Harvard or of climbing Mount Everest.

Law Grad TSP 122156258Success—But Not for Me

A few years ago, I had achieved what many people would define as success. I had graduated from college at the head of my class and attended a top-ten law school. I had built a resume full of successes that would snag a job interview. I had edited the Law Review and could write an impressive law brief. After graduation, I could go almost anywhere, so I chose a high-paying, private-practice litigation job. At age twenty-five, I was making more money than my parents’ salaries combined.

It didn’t take me long to realize that, although other people may have found benefits and joy in my chosen career path, my achievements were not success for me. No matter how hard I worked, in my heart of hearts, I did not have a burning desire for my client to recover more money from or to avoid being found liable to another lawyer’s client. These may have been my clients’ definitions of success, but they weren’t mine. It wasn’t what I desired, wanted, or yearned for and would not bring me a unique sense of achievement and wholeness.

Looking to God

I had completely missed the point. God doesn’t call us to build a resume that will meet someone else’s definition of success. God calls us to seek God’s will, to lean not on our own understanding but on God’s guidance. I had succeeded in following what I thought was expected of me, but I had forgotten to ask what God was expecting of me—what God had created me to achieve. Nothing was inherently wrong with the job, paycheck, or perfect resume except that it was wrong for me. It was not what God had planned for my life. I ended up miserable, feeling completely lost even when I appeared to have it all.

Fulfilled2 TSP 75676048God is always there when we get confused and lose track of the path we’re supposed to be walking. Admitting that my life wasn’t perfect was not easy for me, especially since my situation looked like success to the people I knew, even to my family and close friends. I needed a full dose of feeling frail, afraid, and depressed before I recognized my weakness and stopped thinking I knew where I was going. Then I could look to God, who actually knows the path I should be taking. And I needed the courage that comes only from God to change my direction.

I took a sizeable pay cut and began a public service job in which I write and enforce environmental regulations. Each day, I use the same talents—even my law degree—to make the world a little better place. Now I see myself as successful, not by the world’s standards but in God’s eyes.


Make a short list of careers you are considering. For each one, ask yourself: Am I considering this career because of the job’s power and prestige or because I would enjoy the work and could make a difference in the world? Read Proverbs 3:5 and Mark 1:16–20. Journal and pray about what God is calling you to do.

Kris Erlewine dwells happily in Blacklick, Ohio.

—from devozine (September/October 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

Back To Home

To Order Devozine Magazine, call 1.800.972.0433.