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What In The World Am I Here For?

February 25, 2020
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I’m told the four most profound philosophical questions are: 1) Who am I? 2) Where did I come from? 3) Where am I going? 4) Why am I here?

If you have an answer to these four questions, you can navigate life successfully. The four things I’ve been writing about lately fit loosely into these four philosophical questions. Here’s what I’ve been writing about:

Identity – who am I?
Belonging – who wants me?
Security – who can I trust?
Competence – what do I do well?
Purpose – why am I alive?

I’ve left the “why am I alive?” question until last. I put it after “what do I do well?” because a person’s competence is often a primary hint to the answer to this purpose question. “Hint” is the operative word there. A good bit of intuition is required for discovering why you’re alive.

In one sense, our purpose has already been established. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I love this phrase. It’s the finest explanation of the biggest objective for every Christian’s life I’ve ever seen or heard.

There’s another level, another sense, though, in which our purpose is more specific. What does it look like for me to glorify God? Me, specifically. Accounting for my gifts, my talents, my background, my wiring, who I am, individually. How do I, specifically me, glorify God?

My general purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Discovering my specific purpose calls for, well, discovery. Usually, one big part of discovery is experimentation. I believe the quest to discover my specific purpose in life takes intuitive experimentation.

For me, personally, this meant trial and error. At one point I thought I was going to be a high school vocal music teacher. I went to Oklahoma State University my freshman year with that intention. It was far from a wasted year, but during that time, I realized teaching music in a high school wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. It was a noble objective, but it wasn’t for me.

I went to Bible College as a Sophomore believing I didn’t want to be a minister. I was just going to get a degree of some sort and not get all tied down to being a minister. I’d grown up as a preacher’s kid, and frankly, I had seen too much of the underbelly of ministry to want it for myself. There was no money in it. I knew because I’d seen my dad working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet all my life up to that point. And I knew from watching my dad that there’s no pleasing church people.

It didn’t work out that way, though. I did a summer youth ministry out in a tiny town in the Oklahoma panhandle that straddles the Texas-Oklahoma borders, because I needed a summer job, and since one of my good friends at college basically got me the job, I went to Texhoma. It was the most exciting and formative summer of my life. Long story short, my life’s trajectory was re-directed to ministry. For the next 46 years. In spite of the things I already knew (and thought I knew) about ministry life, I worked in full-time, located ministry.

I intentionally use the word “discover” for finding your purpose. It’s not about inventing a purpose, or inheriting a purpose. An invented purpose has a very short half-life. Adversity has a way of pushing an invented purpose off the road and into the ditch. Purpose in the specific sense can’t be inherited. It’s not like the color of your eyes. And it’s not like your grandfather’s gold watch. As much as you would like to pass your purpose on to your child, it’s not inheritable. Each of us must discover it for ourselves.

If you haven’t identified your life-purpose, now’s the time to begin the journey. It’s an especially good time to start your journey if you have kids at home. You can share your journey with them and be an encouragement as they travel their own journey.

The good news is that although discovering your purpose in life is a challenging process, it’s not rocket science. You don’t need an advanced degree or even a ton of background to figure it out.

Here’s where I recommend you start: P R A Y. Ask God to give you a clear sense of how He wants you to spend your one and only life to glorify and enjoy Him forever. Ask Him to educate your intuition. And then keep praying this until you have clarity.

I have friends who tell me that they’ve heard from God in answer to this prayer, directly. Some have heard an audible voice and others an unmistakable inaudible voice that they knew was God. I believe them. Although I’ve never had this experience, I don’t disbelieve my friends.

For me, it was more of a dawning awareness than a voice in a moment. You may find this to be true, too. Whether you have a growing sense of your purpose or have a moment of illumination, I can say with assurance that God wants to clarify your purpose and empower you toward it. This is the message of Ephesians 2:10. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10 are my favorite verses in the Bible. I love the concept that God redeemed and saved me because of His goodness, not mine. And I love that He not only saved me from my sin and the futility of life on my own, but he save me to do good works that He prepared in advance for me to do.

I’ll spare you a complete download of my love for this passage, and just say you and your kids have a purpose that God prepared for you to do. My belief is that this purpose – the good works in verse 10 – is tailored to our unique gifts, wiring, experience, talents and background.

Your passion, the things that actually drive you, the things that burden you, in preacher-talk, the things that break your heart give you hints at your purpose, too. I don’t think passion equals purpose, though. The danger in making them equal is that when your passion wanes (and it will), you’ll feel your purpose going away, too. Sometimes you’ll have to pursue your purpose purely from your will. In my life, these are some of the most important moments of living on purpose. You’re not likely to discover purpose without finding passion connected to it, but they’re not the sane thing.

Once you seriously seek God for His direction and clarity in prayer for yourself, ask Him to also bring a clear sense of what His purpose is for your kid(s).

When you kids are young – grade school and younger – their main purpose is just to learn how to be a human being. They’re learning how to engage with God, life and other people. This is what developmental psychologists call “individuation,” or becoming an individual. I strongly believe that this is plenty of purpose for a child.

But by the time a kid’s in middle school, they’re usually ready to being exploring personal purpose. This is when your encouragement is very powerful. So is your permission.

One of the big pieces of this is, “Do I have permission to fail and not be punished for it?” Permission, in its best form, is a function of security. (Its worst form is a function of selfishness and apathy.) In its best form, you have to be secure enough as the parent to permit your child to fail, and they have to be secure enough to believe that when they fail, they won’t be punished by you for failing. Obviously, when failure on their part comes from direct disobedience to you, there are consequences that will probably involve punishment, or should involve it. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about kids feeling safe to try and fail as part of a process of discovery. This connects with a piece of what I wrote about last time, competence. (https://homeworkwithst.com/2020/02/22/youre-really-good-at-that/) Nobody gets really good at things without failure.

Be observant. Look for things that hint at purpose. What do they seem to be wired for? What brings them satisfaction. Not just happiness, but satisfaction. What does their interest keep coming back to? Do they have a sweet spot yet? If they do, what is it.

I love it when I can live out of my sweet spot. I bet you do, too. The sweet spot is where you get the biggest bang for your buck. The term comes from golf, God’s favorite sport. There’s a spot on the face of every golf club about the size of a dime (or on some clubs, the size of a nickle) where contact with the ball is optimal. When you hit the ball in the sweet spot, you can tell immediately. You feel it before you see the result.

The odds are very strong that your purpose is connected to your sweet spot. When you can live in your sweet spot, you thrive. Unfortunately, you can’t live all your life in your sweet spot. There are too many moving parts in life that conspire against it. The most realistic thing is to do as much as you can within your sweet spot and give your best to the rest.

Like I said, you won’t do everything in your sweet spot, but much of your life purpose work will be done there. So discover your sweet spot and look for it in your kids. You’re looking for a convergence of gifts, wiring, experience, talents and background. Did I mention that this is a strongly intuitive process? Ask God to direct your intuition.

Then (for yourself and for your kids) start experimenting with what you think your purpose might be. Don’t take on Mt. Everest before you climb some less challenging hills, but don’t stay in the flatland.

If your heart’s drawn to the homeless, don’t start with building a housing development for homeless people. Unless you hear God’s voice (and you know it’s Him). If that happens, build! But otherwise, maybe start with lunch bags and survival kits for the folks on the corner with their cardboard signs. Or with working for a shelter as a volunteer. But start somewhere and see where God leads you.

It’s probably obvious that the subject of life purpose is very deep. Like most of what I write about, it’s far deeper than I can cover in a blog post. This one is already too long. But maybe it’ll get you started. Trust God to move you closer all the time to His broad purpose for you, and then to your sweet spot. For you and for your kids. And then experience the real joy of living life on purpose.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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