One of the big fears and things I prayed about from the beginning of my journey to graduate school was for pure motives. I have wanted to become a nurse practitioner since I was 15. I wrote all my college and scholarship essays about it during my senior year of high school. During college as I interviewed for more scholarships, I remember having a hard time answering why I wanted to become a nurse because I had a much easier time articulating why I wanted to become a nurse practitioner.
When I started applying for graduate school a year ago, I began to question if I was doing it for the right motives. Part of me has always been a
little lot competitive, and I knew that I
would potentially feel inferior if Alex had a graduate degree and I didn't
(silly, I know).
I love my job working as a bedside nurse that spends 12+ hours with the same patients... would I really like the NP role where I see patients for a 15 minute visit and that's it?
I liked the idea of the salary that nurse practitioners make, but I had more than one coworker look me straight in the eye and tell me that if I was to go to NP school, don't do it for the money (several of them have friends that are making less as a nurse practitioner than they did as a nurse).
All this to say, I really needed to question my motives. If I was going to spend the next three years and a nice chunk of money pursuing my dream, I wanted to do it for more than a name and a paycheck.
From the very beginning my prayer has always been (and continues to be):
"Grant me purity of heart [Lord], so that I may honor You." - Psalm 86:11
One of my favorite songs ever is "Create in Me a Clean Heart" by Keith Green. I often sing this song during my prayer time in the mornings because I long for a pure heart in everything I do, whether it involves my marriage, my work, or my relationships.
In every big decision there are underlying motives. Whether it's a job change, a decision to go back to school, or the decision to start a family, there are reasons you either do or do not want to pursue a certain avenue.
I think it's important to examine ourselves in these situations and ask why we want to do the things we want to do.
Do we want to go back to school because we're bored with our current situation and/or want to keep up with the Jones' (or my own husband in my case)?
Are we looking at moving solely because of money, without examining the toll it might take on our family?
Are we looking to start a family because everyone else is and I want to be part of the "mom club"?
Now hear me out, none of the motives I've mentioned are inherently wrong. But I think in any big decision, taking a closer look at our motives is always worth it. Perhaps it's not the graduate degree or the baby you want... perhaps you're trying to find contentment in something other than Jesus (been there, done that friends). Maybe you're equating the idea of more money at a new job with more happiness (we and the million studies that have been done on this know that this isn't true).
So what can we do about it?
Well the first step is to pray for a clean heart and pure motives. It seems like a vague concept, but just like asking the Lord for wisdom (LINK), I truly believe that God will reveal to us impure motives if we let him. No matter how many people I talk to, blogs I read, or podcasts I listen to, the biggest revelations of my heart always come through prayer. And from personal experience, those revelations are usually the icky things that the Lord brings to mind that I try to ignore. Being receptive to those promptings can go a long way into teaching you more about the state of your heart.
Next, we can seek godly counsel. As always, talking through your situation with someone who loves you, loves Jesus, and has your best interests at heart can prove to be invaluable. Often they can see things in us that we ourselves can't see. In a joint decision (one between you and your spouse), I find it helpful to seek godly counsel from someone that isn't my husband. He provides wisdom a lot of the times, but sometimes his proximity to the situation allows him to be blind to certain things as well.
Ultimately, give the Lord control over your heart and your situation. This sounds trite, but what I mean by it is be brave enough to ask the Lord to close doors that need to be closed and open doors that need to be open. I've prayed that the Lord would place a stumbling block in my path if I lose track of my heavenly purpose and start focusing on earthly motives- it's a scary prayer to pray, but truly it's what we want right? We want our motives to be pure, and if we can't discern them then we want God to step in and nudge us to the way He has for us.
As I prayed about graduate school, the Lord revealed some pretty ugly motives I had. I continued to pray and found the true reasons that I am motivated to go to school. I believe the Lord gave me the dream to become an NP when I was 15, but it was for reasons other than prestige and salary. It took a few months for me to truly set my heart and motives in the right place, but it was incredibly freeing when I finally got to that place.
Examining your motives is often hard and ugly. But ultimately, it's so worth it because not only will you be following the will of your creator, but you will be following His will with the right heart.