As an English teacher, I love the idea of my life having a thesis. Hopefully you remember what a thesis statement is from your glorious school days that you imagine so fondly with rainbows and cotton candy. Wink, wink. Without getting too technical, a thesis statement is the main idea of an essay or an explanation of what your focus will be.
When I taught English (off and on for five years), I loved having individual conversations with students about their essays. Imagine this: I would sit down face-to-face with ninth or tenth grade students in occasionally wobbly desks and talk with them about their essay. Sometimes I never even read the words they had written. Sometimes I would only ask questions and never give them advice. But in almost every conversation, I would say, “Tell me your thesis.”
Blank stares. Shuffling paper. Mumbling. Pointing to random sentences. Oh how they squirmed! Believe it or not, my goal was never to make my students squirm. However, no matter how many times I had taught them about thesis statements and having a main idea, students often faltered to actual know what all their paragraphs were trying to say.
This was a bad sign.
In fact, I worried more about my students who wrote multiple paragraphs in one day (but couldn’t tell me their thesis) than I worried about students who barely spun out a few sentences (but knew exactly what their thesis was). Because here is the secret: if you know where you are going, you will eventually get there. But if you have no direction, you will wander aimlessly until you get lost. Does that make sense? I hope so because this simple writing concept is enormously important in our Christian walk!
Originally, I heard this concept of our lives having a thesis from Annie Downs (an amazing Christian author). I was slightly obsessed with her and watched all her videos on YouTube until I found this piece of gold. Please watch it because I cannot explain all of her ideas as clearly as she does! But if you cannot sacrifice ten minutes, her basic premise is that God has a specific calling or thesis statement for each of our lives. She explains that we can figure out what our thesis is and live a more focused Christian life by using some specific steps:
- “Notice your patterns
- Dream a little bit
- Ask other people
- Be brave about some stuff”
(Sorry, but I love lists!) Those are Annie Downs’ steps that she further explains in that piece of gold video which, again, I highly suggest you watch!
Although Annie explains everything superbly, I want to add on to her idea by explaining why it is so necessary for us as Christians to have a thesis. Here’s the WHY: we cannot live our lives like high school students squirming in our desks. As Christians, we must know what God has specifically called us to as individuals. My thesis and your thesis should be different. God has gifted us all with different talents, abilities, and hearts. So we should evaluate our personal giftings and figure out our thesis. Like I mentioned earlier, when someone know their thesis and the direction they are going in, they will get there. No matter how many mistakes or wrong turns, we can get to the right place. But if we do not know our thesis or where we are headed, we will eventually get lost.
This has been so evident in my life! When I have a specific goal or direction, I feel purposeful. I am intentionally working toward something. However, when I am aimlessly floating from one Sunday to the next with no Gospel mission, I feel lost and hopeless. It leads me to emotional turmoil, doubts, and sin. Although I never consciously admitted in those moments, “I have no aim in life; I have no direction,” I still felt it. I felt the soul-burdening question, “Is this all there is?” You see, I was a Christian. I was trying to live for God, but I still felt spiritually lost somedays because I had never figured out my thesis.
Let me be honest, I do not think that having a thesis is a fix-all patch that can suddenly give every single second of my human life eternal significance and empowerment. Let’s face it: we will always be human. I recognize that I will never be perfect and never feel completely focused on God’s kingdom. BUT I do believe that figuring out God’s thesis for our life will help you and me to have more direction and intentionality in our life.
I have not walked through this thesis process completely yet. I am still looking back over my life patterns, dreaming about what God could do in me, talking to other Christians who know me well, and attempting to be brave. But I know that once I figure out my life’s thesis (whether or not I tattoo it or paint it on some Pinterest project) I will be more focused on being the creation God has made me, and I will be more focused on pointing others to my Creator.
Would you tell me about your thesis? What is God directing you to live your life doing? What patterns has God woven through your life? What do you dream of doing with your Christian witness? What do other people say you are really good at doing? What do you need to be brave about today?
Tell me your thesis!