Do our lives have purpose, or possibility?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Not long ago, this story ran through my newsfeed.

Don't get me wrong, I love this blog and blogger. If you aren't following her, please do. But her story gave me pause. I thought, I've never once told my kids they have a purpose in life - a specific destiny only they can fulfill. Should I be saying that? Do I even believe it anymore?

Nailing down God's purpose for my life was a big part of my old way of thinking. Who was I meant to be? What was I supposed to be doing? Did He want me to buy this house or that one? What school should I attend? What major? What schedule? Where do I work? When do I have kids and what will their names be and do I let them cry it out or hold them and do I send them to preschool and if so, when? The thoughts consumed me. What was God's purpose for me? 

I also experienced the flip side of that way of thinking. After devoting most of my early adulthood to obsessing over what I should do with my life, I then spent my twenties wondering when my real life would begin. The one I was supposed to be living, doing that one big thing God had created me specifically to do. Was it when we found the right church? The right town? The right house? Would my life begin if and only if I became a mother? And if I was created for this singular, nearly magical reason, what do I do with the rest of my time?

I was sold on the notion that I had a destiny. It was a miserable way to live.

In time I began to see that God did have a plan - a plan for all of humanity that stretches across eternity. He also had a specific thing I should do with my life. Only, it wasn't nearly as glamorous as I'd thought. God's plan for my life was to use the gifts and passions He'd given me to love and serve the person in front of me. Then the next person, and the next one after that. I didn't have to wait for a magical, ecstatic moment of purpose. Maybe I would have one in time. Who knows, maybe I would have five, maybe I would have none. Either way, my life was not about a single meaningful moment. It was about carrying out my daily tasks with love.

It was not until I had children that I realized how ordinary I am. Women throughout time have loved their families so much it seemed impossible to imagine other people felt the same way. They have spent their days doing the next mundane thing to nurture those entrusted to their care. From one generation to the next, women have carried their ideas and longings and frustrations with them, as they washed clothes or read to their children. I am not unique. I'm just the next piece of string in a vast tapestry holding all of civilization together. I am not special. Instead, I have the great fortune of living an ordinary life - just another plain, beautiful life, marked by fullness and love.

What a relief.

What a blessing to realize God's Plan does not rest on my ability to tease out that one special thing I was created to do. How freeing to recognize I am not defined by a single moment, good or bad, in my life. Time does not hinge on my one single purpose. Instead, I am free to be grateful for what I've been given, rather than wondering what big thing I could (should?) be doing instead. I am free to love the person in front of me, with nothing at stake in the outcome of that act. I am free to know and be known by a big, beautiful, loving God. I am free to live, just live, without the pressure of being special.

No, I won't be teaching my children their life is full of purpose. Instead, I will teach them their life is full of possibility.

We all have the choice. In every event, every relationship, every opportunity presented to us, we choose who we will be. Will we be faithful? Will we love others and love ourselves? Will we continue to hope, even when the very idea seems ridiculous? We will each suffer, we will each have opportunities to grow, we will each face a nearly constant decision between selfishness and love. What will you pursue? What kind of person do you want to become? What decision best honors both who you are and the God who created you? These are the questions I will teach my children to ask themselves at the crossroads of their lives.

We aren't a people of purpose and destiny. We're ordinary people, all of us, part of a vast legacy of hope and fear and possibilities.

Thanks be to God.


  1. Have you read Restless by Jennie Allen? I think it will resonate with you. :)

    1. I've never read it. But I will look it up. =)

  2. Thank you for writing this. You took the words right out of my heart!



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