What Is Your Purpose?
When my sister suddenly passed away two and a half years ago, I struggled with my sense of purpose. I felt God had cheated my sister –a beautiful wife and mother of only 42 years– out of a life that had literally sparkled with purpose, and I berated God for not taking me instead.
I had lost a job that I loved, buried one of my four-legged friends, lost the house I had built, failed at my first attempt at marriage and, along with my second husband, suffered the loss of a pregnancy which I thought would solve everything. And then I lost my sister. My confidant. My friend. I felt like I had no purpose. So, I dug my own grave, and jumped right in. And it was dark. And cold. And lonely.
Eventually, I tired of the self-wallowing and dug my heels in for some real soul-searching. I started a list in a diary that one of my other sisters got me for my 40th birthday. Here’s what I wrote: “What Would Make Me Happy?” It was, essentially, my “Purpose” list. What would drag me out of bed each morning? What would make me want to live? What would make me feel like I’m making a damn bit of difference in this cruel and unfair world? I came up with these five things: 1) Having a baby, 2) Working, 3) Volunteering, 4) Writing, 5) Working out. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all I had. I jammed –with purpose!– each step of that plan into the stony walls of my self-imposed tomb, and finally climbed back out to the land of the living. God bless my husband, family and friends for holding my hand through one of the darkest periods in my life.
What is it about having a purpose that gives us hope? And how do you find your purpose, or does it find you? I suppose this is where God’s plan comes in, right? It begs the question of why I needed to come up with a plan of my own in the first place. You’ve heard the adage, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” As if we have any say in what happens to us. But we do. Maybe not in the end, but certainly in how we get there. It’s called “free will.” We make lots of choices in our lives that take us down different paths. If we make different choices, perhaps we’d get to the end point sooner…or possibly later…or maybe we’d just see different things and have different experiences along the way. Regardless, “purpose” is what guides us.
Can you have more than one purpose? Why not? It isn’t always just one thing that can motivate you. Well, not me, anyway. Maybe it’s your kids or your spouse or your dogs or your job or your friends or all of the above. Maybe it’s a desire to make lots of money, or donate all your money, or travel to exotic places. Figuring out your purpose helps you move forward. Your purpose can change over your lifetime, too. You probably don’t have the same “purpose” at 35 (to have a family) that you did at 16 (to drive!). That’s because you’ve made choices and learned from those choices. You’ve discovered what’s truly important and made more room for those things in your life. You’re moving forward. With purpose.