It's the most common discussion-prompting question for young children. I use it; you probably have, too. This inquiry helps you peak into the heart of a child, and helps give them hopeful dreams.
But how do you respond when they answer doctor, basketball player, princess, or astronaut? Do you encourage them with, "You can be anything you want!" Or do you crush them with, "That probably won't happen."
I have to walk this line between loving encouragement and realistic guidance with my own kids. I've had to walk this line when youth in Allendale ask me why I didn't play pro football; (I barely played in college!). I've had to walk this line when a 6th grader whose grades have been steadily dropping over the years tells me she wants to be a doctor.
I like how Nicole Cottrell puts it in You CANNOT Be Anything You Want:
While the notion of telling children that they can be anything sounds wonderful, it actually does more harm. My generation heard some of that message, but more and more children today are being bombarded with the “you can achieve all things” mantra. . . .I saw this when I was in college. I saw so many driven students who knew that they wanted to be chemists and doctors and musicians and professional athletes. Except many of them didn't really want to. They were expected to.
The child who enters the workplace post-college, with something to prove after years of being essentially lied to and told he can do anything, will all too quickly crumble under the weight and responsibility of life when they realize that they are just like everyone else.
And I saw many crumble under the burden of these expectations that they carried for years. Some burned out before they finishing school. Some (fortunately for them) broke down and changed their paths and dreams. Some lasted only a year or two in graduate school or jobs.
I am all about us knowing and living out our strengths. But we also need to know and rejoice in our weaknesses, the areas in which we are not so good. Why?
Because in our strengths it is easy for us to receive praise (no matter how much we say, "I want to thank God . . ."). But in the areas that we struggle, that is where others know that God alone must receive the glory.
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:9-1)
As we are trying to disciple our children, we have to help them realize that not only is it OK to be weak and needy, but that weakness is a GOOD thing. To believe that I can do anything leaves no room for the gospel to work in my life each day.
Edit: On the same day I published this, Jon Acuff posted Never Give Up On Your Dreams, Unless...
**image courtesy of redvisualg via sxc.hu