Monday, March 21

ReLENTless Pursuit of Purpose

Sighing a little, I checked my hair one last time in the mirror and reapplied my lipstick. We were headed to a work-related event and, unlike most times when I can get dressed up and out of the house for dinner, I was not looking forward to it.


I remembered the last time we'd attended this event, with these same folks: Although the woman I sat next to had responded enthusiastically to the questions I posed to her, she didn't ask me any questions. Not one. single. question.

She knew I was a mom. She knew I stayed home with my kids. And that, apparently, was all that she needed to know.

It's not that I have a burning desire to talk about myself, but her reaction was mystifying and, if I'm honest, a little hurtful. From her perspective, was I only defined by my marriage, my children? Wasn't it possible for me to have outside interests, an identity outside of my home?

It's the same reason that I find myself stumbling around a bit, trying to explain my life. Well, yes I stay home with my kids, but I also do freelance work, write books and a blog. I like doing volunteer work. I've got a master's degree, too...

I end up feeling like I'm trying to justify choices I've made, the woman I've become.

I think it's why, when Kendra, Julie and I joke about having certain themes that emerge again and again in our blog posts, one of my broken-record themes is purpose -- how I struggle with wondering if what I do in my day-to-day really matters and if my life is too quiet and how to overcome the discontent I sometimes feel.

This week for Lent, I'd like to delve into the idea of purpose.

Day One: Untangling Our Identity

I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks to identifying our purpose comes from how it ties to what we believe about our identity. We think that what we do (or don't do) defines who we are, when the opposite is true -- who we are inside is what will determine our outward actions, including how we choose to parent our children, choose our jobs, and choose to live in community with others.

I love these verses from Ephesians:

"It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG)

My favorite part -- it's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. We were designed for a purpose -- HIS purpose.

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you." John 15:16

When other people look at you, what would they say defines you? How does what you believe about your identity factor into the choices you make? How does knowing that God chose you and has purpose for you alter that internal battle and, if so, how?

Day Two: What Does Living in God's Purpose Mean?

"The thief’s [Satan's] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10 (NLT)

Jesus says in John that his purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life, but how are we to go about doing so? Well, he returns to the subject later on in John:

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father." John 15:11-15 (MSG)

Love God and Love Others. That's it, that's your purpose. I don't think that God is that concerned about the specific details on if you went to college, if you choose to cosleep with your children or had them cry it out, if you decide to live in the heart of a city or on ten acres of trees, but he does care about YOU. About how you've used your life, your talents and gifts, your words, your time in pursuit of loving him and showing his love to others. 

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
 

Do you think your life mirrors the plan and purpose God has for his children, or something else? Have you struggled in identifying your purpose? What steps can you take to embrace the purpose he's given you? 

Day Three: How Do I Know that My Life Matters?

"God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks." Psalm 36:5-6 (MSG)

Sometimes I struggle to feel like my day-to-day actions really matter. Yet I only need to see the trainwreck my house becomes after I've been absent for 24 hours to see that, yes, the things I do make a difference!

Of course that's an oversimplification: there is much more to my life than keeping my house clean and my children clothed. Yet it reminds me of a verse I love in 1 Corinthians:

"Do everything in love." 1 Cor. 16:14 (NIV)

Do everything in love? Really? I wrote this before, and but it bears repeating -- Remember that as you go about your day and battle the spring weather; as you hug your children when they sidle close to cling to your legs or pass you with nary a glance, ubiquitous cell phone in hand; as you wash dishes and wipe noses and make yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich; as you drive to school or attend school, or teach it yourself; as you wash faces or listen to Dora and Boots' latest adventure; as you coordinate with co-workers and bosses --

Take a moment, and a deep breath, and remember that everything you do -- every encouraging word, every kindness, every unselfish act, every loving gesture -- matters.
 
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (MSG)  

How does finding our purpose in both the big and small moments of life speak to God's design for our lives? In what ways can we recognize and celebrate the purpose with which God has instilled us? Do you truly believe that your life -- even the little stuff -- matters? If not, what steps can you take today toward recognizing God's purpose for your life?


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