I turned 20 just yesterday and when people wish you happy birthday, the obvious follow up question is, "so do you feel different?" Apparently. Which really is a weird question because age is just a number that lets individuals do certain things like drive, drink, work, get higher education, etc. And yet between the ages of 20 to 21 society expects you to mature up, figure out what you want to do in the future and start being successful. However as I think and discuss it more, I find that success has already been discovered along my 20 years of doing life. In fact sometimes I see more success in 15 year olds, contrast to an adult. Wait, what? Okay, let's backtrack a bit so that you understand what I'm getting at. Synonyms of the word "success" includes: "favorable outcome," "triumph" and "Hollywood Ending." And, I'm a film major so clearly I'm going to use "Hollywood Ending" to explain this. The "Hollywood Ending" is the way that we want a movie to end up, it's the "...and they lived Happily Ever After." It reveals the most positive outcome and most conventional ending in a movie. Very often movies do not end the way the audience wants it to, and the protagonist dies or the guy doesn't get the girl, therefore not meeting the "Hollywood Ending" that we all desire.
Society has TWISTED the definition of success and brainwashed us with a distortion. Success is numbers. It's how much money you have, it's how many friends you have, it's how pretty or handsome you are, it's getting into the best college, it's getting the best test score, it's how many likes you can get on an Instagram post, it's how many subscribers you have. Success is living up to the world's standards. It isn't about OUR desires or OUR favors, it's about OTHERS' desires and favors. Why are we unhappy? Because once you have a lot of friends, you want more, once you have a lot of money, you want more. We are never content. We are never going to get our "Hollywood Ending" and just like a cliffhanger in a TV show, we desire to get more by binge watching a whole season, in hopes of a "Hollywood Ending." This is the first issue, we are basing our success off of how other people see us and what we get from the world. Ask yourself this question, what determines your success? And now ask this, is that meeting your desire or the world's? Or maybe your desire IS the world's.
But hold on, there's an even bigger issue at hand that we need to address. Again, the definition of the word "success" is this: "the favorable or desired outcome." A lot of us translate this as the world's favorable or desired outcome. I'd like to take this definition and give you the actual definition of success, or at least what it should be. Success is this: GOD's favorable or desired outcome. I just talked about OUR desires and OUR favors, but on top of that it really needs to be GOD's desires and GOD's favors. When the outcome of your work is met by God's desires and favors, that's when you have fulfilled success. When your favors are His favors, that's when you can say you're successful. When your success is His success, that's where you find true joy. And that's when you are living the "Hollywood Ending."
Now I'm not saying that you should not take that job offer you've dreamed of, apply to an Ivy League school or delight over the great test score. What I am saying is to not let it determine who you are-to not let it be your identity. If God has blessed you with a high-paying job, by all means go for it, make that money. But once the money
becomes your success, that's when you've gone wrong. If you don't get into the college of your dreams, that doesn't mean you're a failure. That alone doesn't determine your success because it's a success standardized by the world, not by God. And I'm not going to just say this and leave because I want you to pursue this success determined by God. Success by God is faithful obedience to him, trusting, loving, and making His name known in every nation, glorifying Him in all we do. Success by God is living like Jesus. When Jesus walked this earth He was a failure. A failure by society. But He was the most successful person in God's eyes, and if this was a Hollywood movie, the crucifixion would be the disappointing ending that we all dread, but no, Christ's life has the ultimate "Hollywood Ending." His resurrection and grace is the "Hollywood Ending" that has served to bless ALL of us. Yet without the cross, without the crucifixion, there would be no "Hollywood Ending," there would be no eternal life for us. And so to live like Christ is to find success even in death, even in living as a failure to society. We can find success even in failures, hardships, poverty and dissatisfaction.
So I'm 20. And I've found success already. Not by definitions determined by the world but by God, by having my desires be of equal to God's. I find success in loving and serving others, spending time with loved ones, having deep conversations, being honest with others, in pursuing my passions of film and photography and blessing others through it. I find success in traveling to different countries and coming back with stories worth more of a treasure than souvenirs, in hiking a mountain and experiencing God's love through the gorgeous views. I find success in working through a hard relationship, crying with friends, being pushed outside of my comfort zone. These are just some of the things that I've experienced in which I've found true success in and I'm regrettably guilty of pursuing society's standards of success in tough times, but this is a great reminder for us to not identify success solely through happiness, because it can be found in hardships too. In the past year, I've seen more 14-17 year olds being successful compared to 25+ year olds. As I approach the years of having to figure out my future for real, I approach falling into the deception that I am a failure, and letting my status, earnings and accomplishments be the identity of my success. I speak to myself too as I say this, but let's all strive to encourage and push each other closer to God, having our success be His success.