Takin the first step on the path to purpose
For some people, the beginning of a new year is very exciting. They love to discuss goals for the coming year. For many years I was not a goal setter. I didn’t have enough hope in myself that I could change. So, I took away the frustration of failing at goals by simply not setting any at all. I would just have to leave goals for successful people that haven’t messed up their life like I had. My ultimate life goal would be to make a difference, but I felt that had passed me by.
Within all of us is a longing to live a life that is significant, not for personal notoriety, but for impacting the lives of others. Life can feel like a baseball game. But in the game, we only get one chance to bat. And when we get our one chance, we only get one pitch. And one swing. If we swing and miss, we go back to the dugout and hang out until the long game is over. I wanted to hit a home run of impact, but now I am in the dugout of shame because I struck out. This can be an overwhelming feeling, for sure. But what if the world is waiting for us to step up to the plate again? What if your life of significance is one swing away?
I lived the first 48 years of my life feeling like my contribution to the world was falling far short of expectations. I had more to give, but I didn’t know how. I felt like I had messed up my life, so my life could not make a difference. I felt like I had probably taken a turn down the wrong road at some point, which meant I would never be able to arrive at the right destination. I had an overwhelming desire to make an impact. But that desire had become a burden of guilt because I felt I would never be able to do it.
I find that the story of our lives is very, very similar. We may fill in the blanks differently, but essentially, our storyline is the same. Refer to the illustrations as I explain.
STEP1: First of all, we are born with an innate longing to live a meaningful life. The little boy wraps his bath towel around his neck and streaks out of the bathroom with his arms stretched out. He wants to be a superhero. He wants to use his life to make a difference for others. The little girl puts on a princess dress during playtime. Her sweet, innocent heart longs to be cherished and have a life that is valued.
STEP 2: Second, we live our lives pursuing purpose. When we are young, our purpose is not grand, but we live with a childlike zeal that our life is good. We anticipate that there is something coming up to look forward to. We all want to have something inside us that moves us every day to be that superhero or princess. We want our life to be staged for impact. The thought of this kind of life moves us.
STEP3: But then, number three comes along. Something happens either something bad happens to us, or something bad happens because of us. Usually both! At this moment, our story takes a turn. Our zeal to make a difference is replaced with a stronger passion — the passion for protecting ourselves.
STEP 4: And that brings us to number four. We curl up in the nearest hiding place. Nobody can know what happened to me. Nobody can know what I did wrong.
STEP 5: The hiding place brings an initial sigh of relief, but it becomes the biggest trap of our life. The bush of hiding slowly surrounds our life. We went behind the bush by choice, but it becomes a prison. We become trapped in a life of protecting our reputation and creating an image for others to see.
There are many lies in the bush. We feel like we are a thousand miles from a life of purpose. This leads us to believe the next lie. The lie is that I must change my behavior to get my life back. The lie is that my life was forever derailed by that bad thing that happened. But what if that was never the problem? What if there is a step that I can take that will enable me to get my life back? What if it isn’t too late for me to get my life back? What if I could get back on the path of purpose?
What I found in my life is this: When I honestly faced the worst of my life, I became exposed to God’s best for my life. It exposed me to redemption. It exposed me to the simple steps that I could take to live the life of purpose that I was desperate for. The life I was designed for.
My story was that I turned to food to cope with the burden of unfulfilled purpose. I believed the lie that I had to lose weight in order to get my life back. But I couldn’t. The thought that “If I lose weight, I will get my life back” was not helpful. It trapped me in a mindset that would only cause me to gain weight. Waking up every day, saying, “I need to lose weight,” was very sensible. But it was also stifling. I was living in a prison where the walls were made of donuts, fried chicken, and oatmeal cream pies. It did not matter that I knew I needed to lose weight. The burden of trying to lose weight would turn me right back to food.
But what if I could take one step and find freedom? Yes. One step! My step was simple but incredibly hard. I simply needed to come out of hiding. That was the step. Remember, I went into the bush because of what had gone wrong in my life. But why did I do that? I think it is our human pride that sends us to hide. We seek image more than healing. We seek the approval of others more than freedom. When I stepped out of the bush, I found freedom. I thought that stepping out of the bush would expose me to ridicule and shame. Actually, it exposed me to grace, hope, and help.
One step. Just one. It was like tipping over one domino. I didn’t know behind that domino were 100 more that quickly fell. Long story short, here is what became of me. Because I found freedom, I lost 60 pounds. But that is the small part of the story. The big part was that I found my life of purpose. I found it clearly, and I was set free to pursue it boldly! I experienced with my own life something that I want others to experience. Our life’s greatest pain/failure is an ugly set up for our life’s greatest triumph.
As you read this article, I hope that you can personalize this message. My friend, your life has a great purpose. You can know it clearly, and you can be set free to pursue it boldly!
The goal of this article is not to inspire you to write goals. The goal is that you will find a pathway to hope. The hope is not that you can change. The hope is that Jesus offers a pathway of redemption and freedom. You don’t need to change your behavior to find that freedom. You can’t. What you can do is take the step that Jesus compels us to take.Jesus compels us to lose our life to find it. You can stop trying to fix it. Step out of the prison of hiding and allow God’s grace to shine on the darkest place of your life. You will find that the redeeming power of God brings freedom. With freedom comes the power to change.