I used to believe, and teach on blogs and in books, that everybody had a unique purpose and in order to figure it out a person had to go through so many steps, analyzing their gifts, talents, skills, and circumstances.
I believed and taught it because that’s what I’d read in so many self-help books, on so many self-help blogs.
Including Christian ones.
As a matter of fact, one Christian marketing guru has gone so far as to imply that if you can’t make money with a certain type of life endeavor, then it’s not your purpose! How far we have fallen.
I remember over fifteen years ago reading Rick Warren’s destined-to-be-a-classic, The Purpose-Driven Life. He said the purpose of a Christian is to glorify and worship God. I scoffed. Purpose wasn’t that easy. And besides, what did all that mean, anyway? It was vague and incomprehensible to my stubborn ears that were closed to what the Spirit was saying.
What the secular books taught about purpose made a lot more sense.
And, put a lot of pressure on me (figuring out my own purpose), as well as made me even more judgmental than I already was.
What about the African bush?
You hear so many Westerners make comments like, “My purpose is to write and publish uplifting stories.” “My purpose is to be a doctor.” “My purpose is to have a YouTube channel that helps people with XYZ.” “My purpose is to raise a few children to be good, caring people.” “My purpose is to be a computer programmer.” “My purpose is to be a singer/actor/dancer.”
But, think about it: how long has computer programming or YouTubing even been a thing? What happens after your children leave the nest? What about people who want to help others be healthy, but can’t afford university tuition?
What about people who live in the African bush or the Amazon rainforest, whose lives we would label “primitive” because “all” they ever do is hunt, gather, and/or raise food? Oh, and enjoy each other’s fellowship during times of leisure, with no thought of giving conscious service?
Without smartphones or CDs or television or the Internet or novels, I might add.
Let’s take it a bit deeper. People who lived in the Industrial Age and spent most of their lives in factories – surely God would not have given them such a purpose of drudgery! Surely they were called to loftier things, but their unbelief or ignorance or ill circumstances kept them from finding their true purpose.
And what about all those people who lived when publishing books was something few people did (or, not even a thing!), when farming or working a trade was the lot of the majority of people, when there was no such thing as movies and musical recordings – indeed, when any kind of fine arts career was considered not quite respectable?
What about all the millions of people over the millennia who barely eeked out a living, facing struggle after struggle, then died before the age of fifty? When looked at in the light of the modern perspective of purpose, we have no choice but to consider that they never knew, let alone fulfilled, their purpose in life.
Except, that’s totally wrong.
It was a single line in a novel, from a minor character who showed up only briefly, that began to change my ideas around purpose.
“Our purpose is to experience life,” she said. I wish I could remember what she said after that, or the title of the book and its author. What I do remember is that the character, a middle-aged woman who was the mother of the male protagonist, was a believer, and that her general meaning was that when we experience life, we do the best we can with it based on our faith and trust in God.
The simple statement sent my mind spinning. At first, of course, I argued in my head with it. But then, I began to think about all the quiet misgivings that had been bugging me, those “what-abouts” I just mentioned regarding people who don’t live a modern life, or who lived long before what we know as “modern life.”
And then came the book I’m reading now, entitled Proverbs 3: 5&6: The Distilled Essence Of The Christian Life. It was written by a man in, I believe, his 80s, named Bob Beasley. About twenty percent in, he states, “My purpose is to glorify God by living for Him.”
Rick Warren’s statement, and the novel character’s statement, packaged into a clear, comprehensible revelation.
Sure, God calls certain people to do certain things at certain times in their lives. Sure, the Spirit tugs at people’s hearts to use certain of their gifts in certain ways.
But not all believers feel a sense of calling. And many have been left in despair, feeling that they must be living purposeless lives because they’ve either never felt a special calling, or they live conventional lives, working at jobs that don’t seem, in the grand scheme of things, all that important.
I take my share of responsibility in spreading that false belief around.
Walking in God’s purpose doesn’t involve a certain calling, special gifts, or a particular set of life circumstances. What a relief! That takes the pressure off…and makes me not so judgmental about people who seem to be happy living conventional lives.
Good ol’ Rick was right after all. Our purpose is to glorify God. How? By doing our best to live for Him. How? By putting all of our trust in Him.
And it has nothing to do with making money.
Duh. As I say that to myself, I wonder: what other wrong beliefs am I holding onto, because when I first heard them they sounded good, stroked my ego, and/or increased my comfort?
Well, I suppose my Lord will be revealing the next one to me in the not-so-distance future. And then I’ll blog about it, just to help you remove me from that Author Pedestal you may have placed me on. 😉