Devotional 2/15: Being Willy Loman
WILLY: What’s the mystery? The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich! The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress!
(Death of a Salesman Act 1)
I have been thinking a bit about the obtainment of goals and what they mean to men. I have also been wondering what goals mean to God, ones He gives and ones He does not.
Surely we all have things we want to accomplish in life. Some of us believe that if just do such-and-such before we die, our lives would have meant something. Some think that only by accomplishing something can we make and leave the world a better place. Some of us have no idea what those goals (self-or God-given) might be! Some of us are called to do something in particular and that is great. Some of us are called to work toward something that we will never see come to pass (e.g. Abraham and Charles Goodyear). Some of us have accomplished and obtained everything we have ever wanted and have run out of dreams. Some of us are in different places.
I personally have not accomplished everything I have wanted to accomplish in life. I do not know if I will, I have a vivid imagination and I can come up with a lot of goals! Sometimes the size of my dreams are more than unrealistic, they are fanciful. There are definitely things that I think the Lord wants me to accomplish and there are things that I want to do that I think will make the world a better place. However, I wonder if those ideas are from the Lord Himself or just an idea from myself. I remember in high school, I wanted to do something for God but I did not check with Him at the time if He wanted me to do it. Not only did it not have a great positive effect, but it actually resulted in a lot of heartache and problems. Sometimes we can be on a path the Lord has set for us and still experience heartbreak and a lot of problems. I think a lot of problems that people of faith have caused in history are because they did not “wait” on the Lord and went too far.
However, I wonder if some of my goals are just desires to fulfill an immature view of what I think manliness looks like. I wonder if I think, ‘If only I had or did or accomplished XYandZ, then I would be a ‘somebody’, like Willy Loman. That name should bring back memories of high school English class. Willy Loman was the main character from Arthur Miller’s play entitled, Death of a Salesman. Willy believes that men sell (he would have been very impressed with Donald Trump, for certain). Though Willy Loman has other talents, he believes that real men sell and that salespeople are the most happy and most liked people in the world. So he makes a subsistence life selling various products. When he is called on to go to another town to sell, he is so impressed with himself, he cheats on his wife. At the funeral of some salesperson that Willy holds in high esteem, Willy is impressed that many come to the funeral. That image of manliness and success is his god.
I know that many of us are like Willy Loman. We exchange quiet patience and prayer for a desire to accomplish something that we think will make a REAL difference in the world. We say to ourselves, if we could just accomplish XYZ, then I will be respected, loved, and many, many people will come to my funeral. Some of us may even say, if I accomplish XYZ then God will respect me, love me, and give me what I want.
Even King David struggled with this. He desperately wanted to build the Lord’s temple. David said that he wanted to and prepared to build the Lord’s temple. It was an obsession with him and I think that it actually became more important to him than following God. This led him to committing sin. In 1 Chronicles 22:7 he laments to his son Solomon how the Lord took the building of the Temple away from him because of all of the blood he shed. I bet David felt like Willy Loman being demoted by his boss at that point.
Now, I am not trying to tell people not to dream and I am not trying to tell others what they should or should not value. According to Denzel Washington (from a video on YouTube of a motivational speech he gave to a bunch of actors) “True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you, sent beforehand, to prove to you that it is yours already”. I like that the desires to accomplish something is something that the Lord has put in MY heart as signs of what HE wants me to accomplish. According to Fredrick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet” (, 1973). I think that quote a little more. That is another quote that says the Lord is involved in our decision-making process, and that gives me hope. However, I still think there is something missing.
One can only wonder how to discern when you are being Willy Loman and when you are listening to Denzel Washington or Fredrick Buechner. Both of them give good points. I do believe that some of your desires are from the Lord and are placed there by Him. However, not all of your dreams and desires are from the Lord and the Lord will not be behind all of them. Not only are we to look inside to what dreams and desires we have been given, but we also need to pray:
‘Please help me to know which of my dreams and desires are from YOU. I lay them all at your feet to do with what YOU will. Use me as you would in accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Help me to know YOUR dreams and desires and how the dreams and desires you have given me, can accomplish those.
And we need to live a life that makes sure that the Lord is Lord, not your desires or your values or your view of manhood. That will get you to accomplish the goals the Lord has for you. They will have His power and will accomplish what He intended. That is something that Willy Loman was definitely missing.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.