One of the most ambitious people I’ve ever met drove a pink pickup truck with the words MISS TEA PARTY painted across its flanks. Kim Newlen, a stay-at-home mother of two, had a growing passion to reach other women with Christian hospitality. In the mid-1990s, she began hosting women in her home for tea and conversation. Eventually her evangelistic ministry, Sweet Monday, had chapters in every state.
Then, at age 47, Kim was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. “I thought what I would do was just pull the covers over my head and wait until everything was over,” Kim said. But the opposite happened: in Kim’s words, “I got bolder as I got balder.” Amid her cancer treatments, she worked with a fashion designer to create a patented post-surgical garment for other women to wear while undergoing their own treatments.
“I’ve always wanted to be a woman who didn’t live with regret,” said Kim. “Life is so short, I didn’t want to look back and say, I wish I had, I wish I had.”
True ambition is refusing to say, “I wish I had.”True ambition is refusing to say, “I wish I had.” @KatelynBeaty #theopendoorsisterhood #giveaway Click To Tweet
Ambition often gets a bad rap in Christian circles. It is almost always associated with ego and pride, which are enemies of the soul. Indeed, we follow a Savior who took on the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:7) and who refused to grasp for worldly power (Matt. 4:8–10). Why would we, sinful, frail creatures have any right not to do the same?
But I believe our ambitions can be redeemed and produce kingdom fruit, if we submit them to God. After all, God made us, male and female, to steward the world He created, for his glory and others’ benefit. Ambition is an aspect of bearing God’s image, of filling His world with beauty and goodness and delight. Oriented toward God, ambition is the setting of the will to accomplish the desire of the heart.
I have met many women over the years who have dreams, skills, and passions that they want to steward during their lifetimes. But something holds them back. Oftentimes it is paralyzing doubt that says they will fail if they try. Oftentimes it is a sense of loneliness and lack of support. Other times it is an accusatory voice that says it would be selfish to pursue dreams. Many women are afraid of being “too ambitious.”
My longing is to see more and more women embrace the good ambitions God has given them. We can do this by meeting with friends who can see and name the gifts and talents we may be afraid to name ourselves. We can regularly meet to hold each other accountable to set and meet goals. We can offer each other a simple word of encouragement when our ambitions take us into tricky territory. And we can create spaces where it’s safe to be ambitious, where women with vision and passion are celebrated.
I had the honor of writing about Kim Newlen in my book before she succumbed to cancer and died in 2014. She has become an icon for me of living life to the fullest—not for one’s own pleasure but for love of God and neighbor. Like Kim, I want to make the most of the time God has given, so that at the end of my life, I won’t have to say, I wish I had. Instead, I want to say, I did—all for you, Lord.
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Katelyn Beaty is the author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World, which is newly out in paperback and as a small-group study. An editor at large for Christianity Today magazine, she has written for The Washington Post, Vox, and The New York Times and speaks regularly on work and vocation. She lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where she enjoys running, reading, and the occasional karaoke outing.