The recent death of 43-year-old Chadwick Boseman, an American actor best known for his portrayal of King T’Challa in the movie Black Panther, provoked widespread expressions of grief and acclamations of his career accomplishments and the values he stood for.
Boseman, a South Carolinian, spoke as an alumnus at the 2018 Howard University commencement to share some of those values. At the time of the address he had been aware for two years of what would come to be terminal colon cancer, but he had chosen to keep his battle with cancer private as he continued to pursue what he described as personal purpose. Personal purpose, he said, is worth pursuing over the consuming details of career decisions.
“Purpose is an essential element of you, it is the reason that you are on the planet at this particular time in history,” Boseman said. “Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”
College students, the most vulnerable age group to indecision, often feel the clash between the idea of one’s ultimate “destiny” and the usually less-exciting necessity of career-oriented decisions. The opposition between practicality and idealism is a common conflict that leads to uncertainty. We know we should not stifle personal inspiration for the sake of fiscal success, but we also should not avoid responsibility to follow our whims.
A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Education revealed 30% of undergraduates change their major within three years. In a survey sponsored by BestColleges, 214 out of 817 college graduates said they would change their major to follow their passion and 205 said they would change it to get better career opportunities.
In addition to the indecision that can generally paralyze young adults, young Christians in particular can be tempted to choose to be stagnant in expectation of God’s divine direction. They forget that biblical principles are given to guide the use of their free will, not deter it.
Regardless of career, Christians can always fulfill our ultimate purpose by glorifying God. Staying inactive will only limit the spheres of influence we have. There is a time for deliberation and seeking counsel, and then there is a time for action. There is just as much opportunity for Christians to fulfill our purpose in failure as in success, and sometimes the defeat is what furthers us the most.
As Boseman, a man who knew he was dying, said, “Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you.” He quoted Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”