Updated: May 5
January is a time of reflection for many people and often when we reflect on ourselves and our lives, we start to think about our purpose in life. In case you haven't caught on, I can sometimes be very skeptical and critical of myself or the things around me. It is an area of my personality that I am actively working to improve, and it has caused me quite a bit of grief in the past. I have been especially hard on myself when it comes to "discovering" my passion and purpose for being placed on this earth. Today, I was thinking about all I've been through and I was reminded of several things I have learned. I thought it might be helpful to someone out there for me to share a few of my life lessons. Below I have listed 5 lies I used to believe about myself and what God wanted of me.
1. My purpose is something I will do in the future- when I was in high school and college I clung to the verse found in Jeremiah 29:11 as if my next breath depended on it. I was so desperate and anxious to discover what God's plan for me was and what I could do for Him. I kept telling myself to wait patiently until the time would come when I would suddenly be doing what I was meant to do (whatever that was!). It is only recently that I discovered that my purpose in life is something I was born with. Yours is too even if you don't realize it. Every single day that you wake up is an opportunity to serve God and serve others. Your purpose is not something far in the distance, it is already here! It is our choice to carry out the routines and tasks of each day with a sense of urgency or complacency. No act of kindness or hard work is too small. We can live purposeful lives right now.
2. My purpose requires a lot of training, schooling, experience, etc.- I am still a little bit guilty of believing this. I tell myself that when I have more experience I will finally publish a book or when I have more local friends I will start a consistent Bible study group. The reality is, I can do those things now. Even if you feel like your purpose in life is to be a doctor you can still start helping people now. You can share nutrition tips, take first aid, or volunteer with a nursing home. There is always something we can do to act on the desires of our hearts even if it isn't as grand or professional as we assumed it would be. It is good to have goals in place but it is also good to recognize the opportunity for immediate action.
3. Someone else's purpose is more important than mine- Firemen, professional singers, and surgeons are just a few of the people who I look at in life and go WOW. When I see them carry out their purpose and passion I am just amazed. They are so talented and I know I could never succeed at doing what they do so seemingly effortlessly. It is easy for me to see people with skills that I don't have (nor will I ever have) and tell myself that my talents and interests aren't as important as theirs. I remember being in the 1st or 2nd grade and hearing my teacher say that even the garbage collector had a purpose for their life. She said every job is just as important as another. I thought that was just crazy! How can you compare a garbage collector with the president of a country? Yet as I get older, I am starting to agree with her. A career does not decide who is special, valuable, or worthy of praise. Everyone has something that they do especially well. The confusion comes from how society praises certain people and ignores others. The average professional football player gets paid 2 million dollars a year. A caregiver (someone who comes to an elderly person's home and takes care of them) only makes around $27,000 a year. Is the football player doing better work than the caregiver? No. We cannot measure the value of someone's purpose by money, fame, or worldly success. God needs all of us to do special work for Him in our own unique ways.
4. My purpose needs the approval of the people in my life- I spoke with a friend recently who was really going through a struggle. She was in college studying to do something that she didn't want to do. The profession would make a lot of money and so her friends and family were adamant that she should keep working on her degree despite how much she didn't enjoy it. I could tell from the conversation that she was really unsure of what to do. She wanted the lifestyle such a career would bring, but she didn't feel like doing the job would fulfill her purpose or passion. It is so important for the things we do in life to be meaningful to us. It doesn't just have to be a job it can be anything- a religion, a lifestyle, a hobby. Unless we have a genuine interest in that thing or that way of life, we shouldn't do it. We each have our own calling in life for a reason. If other people value something, they can be the ones to act on it! The only other being who should influence our purpose in life aside from us is God.
5. My purpose can only be fulfilled through a career- This is a thought that I have had more than once and also watched my mother wrestle with. For years my mom felt unimportant because she was a stay at home mom and didn't care a big career like some of her friends or fellow church members. At times she made comments about being a failure because of this, but her life has not been a failure at all! She was an AMAZING stay at home mom, she is incredibly artistic (both in music and crafts), and she has a phenomenal talent for encouraging and comforting people when they are hurting. My mother is probably one of the most empathetic and compassionate people you can ever meet. Almost every day she designs handmade cards to send to people she loves who might need a little something to brighten their day. I just can't help but notice that she is fulfilling her purpose by serving her friends and family with her handiwork. A purpose in life is not just a career or a vocation, it is a lifestyle. It is a kind word or gesture. It is anything that shows the character of Jesus to a world full of broken and hurting people.
I found a beautiful quote online today that I want to end with:
“The purpose of life is not just to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson