Monday, May 16, 2011

Injecting Purpose Into Your Life Before It's Too Late

"Life" overwhelms me. Not every morning I wake up - - just the word itself.

Probably because whenever I hear a word, I have some sort of visual image of it in my head. But the word "life?" I can't see anything. I can barely grasp it.

What IS it?

It's something that's so broad it can't be defined. And when we try, we do a pretty bad job of it - probably because the majority of us live in nice little organized bubbles filled with people that are either in the same grade, the same field, the same stage of life, or the same lifestyle. Just lots of You's, and all right now. Too few differences, and we only see what we know.

When was the last time you saw someone die? Do you know what the inside of a 62 year old's mind looks like, suddenly widowed and estranged from her grown children? I can't possibly know what her life was, is, or will be - what was important to her, how she made defining life choices, what she clung to, or what she regretted most.

And not once has Death dealt its blow in the same room I was in, forcing me to grasp the brevity of my body's ability to keep functioning.

After 23 probably-a-bit-stranger-than-yours years, and the past 47 days sleeping in strangers' houses, my mental projection of future-Life is fuzzier than the antique radio you just picked up at Goodwill.

The primary lesson I've learned is that there is no normal. Every single person (and family) is a wildly unique, intricate mess - and there are no two alike. When you start crossing state lines, belief systems, extreme family histories, and life stages, most of them are so different you experience a mild level of culture shock. (47 consecutive days and nights of baby culture shocks translates to permanent jet-lag, in case you were wondering.)

I'm not faced with the widow's regret. I haven't experienced 50 years of working a "good" job, waking up to realize that my priorities were all out of line. I can't chase Corporate America for 40 years to see if I can break six figures, and then go back to try chasing radical relationships and spur of the moment adventure for 40 more to see if I feel more fulfilled that way.

It has been these things, these experiences, that make me realize how much I covet wisdom.

We don't get do-overs in life. We get to choose one way of living, and that's all we've got.

So what is at our core, that we can truly cling to and live by?

Do you have a life mission? A goal? Something bigger than you that you're working for? Something worth making sacrifices over?

If someone gave you an index card and asked you to write down the purpose of your life, could you?

I'm not bringing anything new to the table today. We've been told our whole lives that money can't buy happiness, that love makes the world go round, and now in this generation that quitting your 9-5 job is going to catapult you into a kickass life worth blogging about.

But catchphrases aren't enough. Quitting your job doesn't guarantee you a purpose if you didn't have one already. It just guarantees less money, and a schedule so flexible it's almost panic-attack inducing. Quitting your job is only worth it if it's a sacrifice you're making for a very specific life God has called you to.

Because it's not what you're doing, it's how you're doing it.

When my road splits, I have to have some sort of foundation to make decisions by. I need to have pre-determined truths and priorities that I know I will fight to keep present in my daily life.

I know that 4 years ago I wrote on an index card, "that she would show love, grace and compassion to everyone she met, regardless of what was shown to her." That's what I want people to say of me when I die. Because I don't know if I'll die at the hands of a crazy tribe warrior, or silently in my own million dollar home. But I've decided that either way, I'll die happy if people know me by that.

I know what I'll make sacrifices for: love, grace and compassion.

I want to keep those three things alive in everything I do. For the rest of my life. Whatever it looks like.

I challenge you to chase wisdom. To sit down and talk with someone twice your age. Save yourself a lifetime of regret. Save yourself wasted time, energy spent on things that won't be worth it. Determine what you want to be known for. Write it down. Flesh out your understanding of life and a life worth living.

Be one of those few people that doesn't know exactly what they're doing, but knows exactly how they're doing it.

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"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." I Peter 3:7-9

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12

"Do you now believe? You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:31-33

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Note: This post was triggered by an incredibly awesome late-night table discussion with some good people I've been hanging out with this week in Savannah, GA. Josh Lind runs The Fusionist, and we ended up all making a list of 10 things that make our life worth really living. You know, the things that you remember experiencing, and you know in your heart of hearts that life is truly good? My list is over at The Fusionist. Please take a moment to read my guest post there, and leave your 10 things!

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8 comments:

kelly summers said...

"vision" and "purpose" are words that i've grown to be afraid of over the last few years. mostly because they feel so far away.
this is a great post.
thank you for reminding me that even getting a statement down on a note card is a good step towards having an actual direction and purpose in life. it's something i need to do.
xoxo

Jenn said...

I love, love, love the line "it's not what you are doing, but how you're doing it".

This is really what I"m coming to realize. My day may seem so mundane and boring, and very unspiritual but does that mean I don't have an impact on the world?

It's so true we get caught up is our small vision, I love talking to mom's of grown kids and realizing the things I think are important are so temporary.

Beautiful Post.

Joy Eggerichs said...

Incredible. Well said. I have the John 16 verse hanging in my shower right now. It puts suffering in perspective and tests my belief to it's very core.

Bekah Hope said...

You have no idea how much I needed this. Today.

I've been working a 9-5 essentially since I graduated high school. The past 5 years. When I started I was sure that by now God would've whisked me away to some foreign field as a missionary. But not long into this journey, He put my dreams to the test. I laid them on the altar and I learned to be content right where I am. It's been an adventure in itself. I've learned to live on very little, yet be very happy.

Now I'm on the balance beam between contentment and "dangerously comfortable". God is shaking me again. In less than an hour I pick up the phone to find out if I might be quitting my current 9-5 to start "a life worth blogging about". I'd be moving - by myself - 5 states away to do a job that would encompass everything I'm passionate about. Feeding orphans. Helping widows. Writing. Photography. Butterflies dance in my chest cavity at the thought.

Thank you for the challenge. I'm taking it seriously.

Blessed Holy Socks said...

I'll see you in Heaven I guess. Be sure to read 'closenmyeyes'. That's precisely how I'll serve you. God bless you.

Jenni Austria Germany said...

just found your blog. i'm liiikin' it.

Chelsea said...

wow. this was beautifully written!

Becca Estelle said...

This is a wonderful post and I would first of all like to thank you for acknowledging that the struggle of finding your purpose needs to go beyond the cliches.

But here is my question to you: where do we draw the line between upholding ourselves and our duty to others? I am a student in college now who, though passionate about literature and art, am studying biology with the intention of attending medical school. Do I owe it to myself to pursue English? Or, am I beholden to the people I could help as a doctor? To whom do I ultimately owe my commitment -- myself, who is so blessed, or the people who may genuinely need me?

Or, worse than all of this, is it vanity to put my choices on a scale of being needed when I am not sure I will ever be able to help?

Perhaps, thinking that we have only one path in life is too crippling. Why can't I treat by day and paint all night? Why should I accept these limitations before I have tested them?

I do apologize for blathering all over your blog, though I am interested to hear your thoughts on my dilemma. Thank you again for putting together such an inspiring work full of wise, brave words. I look forward to reading more!
-Becca Estelle

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