Finding one’s purpose seems like a “no-brainer,” but it can be elusive. Sometimes the tyranny of the here and now “define” your purpose: “I’ve got to do well in my career; I’ve got to take care of my kids and raise them well;” “I need to care for a sick family member; I need to earn a lot of money so I can have the things I want…. Or perhaps earn enough money to live decently without debt hounding me.”
When the book first came out in the early 2000s, everyone at my church flocked to buy The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It became a number one best seller, and not just in Christian markets. I had the privilege of actually seeing Rick Warren a few times in his early years at Saddleback Church; and the friend who attended there would send me almost all of his messages, on cassette tape (now I’m dating myself!). I like Rick Warren, I think he says it directly and honestly, and I think he’s a down-to-earth guy who faces struggles, fears, devastating life events, and joys, just as we all do. He just has a very good handle on where God is in all this, and he has the gift to relay that.
And now I am rereading The Purpose Driven Life.
The opening line of the book:
And, the basic premise of the book is that God has put us all here for a purpose, HIS purpose. And we need to find out what that is. Easier said than done!
Here I am at the end of my fifth decade of life, still searching for my purpose for this part of my life. And I think we can have multiple purposes, which correspond to different stages and circumstances of our lives, however our one, overarching purpose is to glorify God and do His Will. I’ve had a few ideas about what God’s purpose for me is/was. Sometimes I was misguided. Sometimes I feel I got it right. Many times it’s a no-brainer.
Clearly if God gives us children, then our purpose is to love them, care for them, and raise them to be good people. As a Christian, we are to teach them about God. For some time now I have had some uneasiness that I didn’t fulfill that purpose perfectly, because the early results are mixed. Our 20-something kids are awesome, we are proud of them (most of the time) and love them completely. But they aren’t always choosing paths we would have expected or find good for them. One of my kids is sold out for the Lord, and deliriously happy (and 10 years ago this is what I LEAST expected from this child). The other kids are in stages of pulling away from their faith, hence I look at myself and ask, “what did I do wrong?” I failed at this purpose to raise kids who love and obey God…
Sure, I am human and I know I made mistakes. I wasn’t a perfect parent. But I did the best I could. I completed my purpose of raising children in the admonition of the Lord, to know about God and his love. My purpose was to guide them that way in the best way I could. My purpose is to continue being an example of God’s love. What they now do with it is up to them, and up to God.
My purpose in marriage? I’ve fumbled that one a LONG time. I’ve gone through seasons where it was about what I got out of it. I want to feel loved. I want to be romanced. I want more sex. I want to feel adored. I began to believe that if it was all sacrifice and no fun, surely this isn’t right? I often wondered if marriage had been the right thing for me. We certainly have had our trials over the years. But when I started getting the purpose of marriage as a God-honoring institution, and also as a way to further the Kingdom of God, I got outside my selfish “It’s about me” attitudes, and saw improvements.
I’m still working on getting this one right. Oh, the flesh is weak!
For years now, I’ve looked back on my life, have been in some great studies where I’ve been able to really see God’s amazing presence over the timeline of my life (even through the darkest moments and greatest pains, the desert moments where God seems so far), and have realized that he’s used ALL things to his purposes, which are GOOD. I know he’s not finished with me yet, so much more to learn. For this brief time I have on earth, which is only the prelude to what I have to look forward to in eternity, how can I live out God’s purpose for me to it’s fullest?
I love to write. I love to talk. I love to help people. I have a heart for loving marriages and families, and how to make these better. What purpose could God have for me in all that?
God sent me the answer recently by getting me involved in a woman-to-woman mentoring program. Great! I have been ready to impart all of my great life knowledge to help a younger woman. And God laughed a little. God still is challenging my own heart through this. It’s not simple and it’s not easy. God just keeps reminding me that he’ll work through me in this relationship, if I let him, and I continue to keep my sights on HIS purpose. And sometimes it means I just need to shut the heck up, listen, learn more, and pray.
Meanwhile, I’m here blogging. I had two huge posts sitting ready to publish, written when things were not going well for SJ and I. I was upset, despairing, and angry. Writing helps me release those poisoning emotions. Publishing that writing though is not helpful. Things still are not in a great place for us right now, but I’m grateful that we are talking and working through issues, and we are trying to extend grace to each other. I have so much to learn about controlling my anger, which comes from disappointment. It is toxic, and so unhelpful to my marriage. It’s hard, but I have to keep reminding me, “It’s not about me.”
So I’m here. Writing. Sharing. Waiting for that someone or someones who just need encouragement, hope, or just a patient ear. Perhaps wisdom from the mistakes I’ve overcome.
And maybe, to help us find our real purpose.