By Amanda Cleary Eastep
Every night I take it to bed with me, wake up with it, and feel it breathing down my neck when I’m not giving enough attention to it.
(No, it isn’t an overly affectionate labrador.)
It’s my purpose.
Sometimes purpose manifests itself in many ways throughout our lives and sometimes as one activity that drives us, brings us joy, and is the hardest work we do.
What is it for you?
Maybe parenting or preaching or growing a business…
For me, it has always been writing, even in the midst of more important work, like raising my children.
Poet and scholar Francesco Petrarca expressed his relentless need to write in a letter to a friend:
“This inexorable passion has such a hold upon me that pen, ink, and paper, and work prolonged far into the night, are more to my liking than repose and sleep. In short, I find myself always in a sad and languishing state when I am not writing, and, anomalous though it seems, I labour when I rest, and find my rest in labour.”
Even with the exhaustion and pain brought on by writing, Petrarca said his “tireless spirit” seemed to be “reclining upon the softest down.”
That is how I’m feeling right now as I type. Despite the strain on mind and emotion, I sense a soft euphoria.
I recently asked my family and friends about their sense of purpose. The answers ranged from crossing tasks off of a list — to caring for pets — to helping others — to not really knowing at all…
Their responses confirmed that purpose is deeply personal and unique to each. But they also revealed what purpose is not.
Purpose is NOT…
Our aphrodisiac–My husband, a missionary to India for 20 years, said he and other young Christians became passionate at one point about sharing Jesus with a tribal gypsy group. “Yeah! Let’s spread the Gospel among the Banjaras!” they rallied, their good intentions punching the air like cheering fists. But they never did. Likewise, we may feel called to a task, like writing or evangelism, but we become more enamored with the idea of it. We pour our efforts into dreaming and discerning and planning but never act.
All about us–The other day I interviewed a college student for her school’s alumni magazine. She compared her college life to a line-up of dominoes. “What I do in the place God has set me will touch the next person and the next and the next.” Ultimately, the work we are purposed to do affects a broader community. Our responsibility is to carry out our purpose, to work hard, and to trust that it means something to someone someday, like Pertrarca’s words surfacing hundreds of years later and inspiring me in my writing.
About being Moses–Most of us don’t have a “burning bush” moment. No hot minute in our desert when a voice comes out of a flaming shrub and proclaims, “Hey, you, I’m God, and I’m sending you on this mind-blowing mission that will alter the course of humanity!” Even after this supernatural encounter, Moses doubted. I imagine that one more irritating “but Lord” from Moses, and God may have moved on to the next sandaled guy. Which makes me ask myself, Have I answered God’s call with a resounding Yes! or am I squeaking out a response that prompts God to not ask so much of me the next time?
This post first appeared at amandaclearyeastep.com.
These ‘what it’s not’ are so important, Amanda. Purpose has never seemed clear to me, which must sound ridiculous from an ordained minister. I think I try to put too fine a point on it. Ultimately, his purpose is for us to love him and enjoy him forever. But why stick with that when I can complicate it 😉 Thanks for sharing your insights.
I know what you mean, Debby. The longer I live the more I realize our only purpose is to love our neighbor and love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We can live that out a million beautiful ways.
Hindsight is so revelatory. In my youth I truly believed I would have a grand purpose ‘one day’. By the conclusion of my seventh decade I was forced to admit that, while there are those who are indeed called to a specific purpose, one with a title and mapped out mission, I was only called to listen, obey and trust, in the smallest of ways. I now can see from this new perspective, that my life is a composite picture where each pixel is actually another picture, another story. I have to say it was a relief and a comfort to realize I have been serving my purpose all along, in tiny ways, thus creating the final portrait of who I was supposed to be.
Ah, yes, the grand purpose. I so hear you, April. I recall having a discussion about this with a Christian friend when I was in my early 30s. Her wise response was basically that God was calling me to be like Christ. Not necessarily to have a title or achieve the Big Thing. And look how we measure our obedience of him as “tiny ways.” We often have no idea how he ultimately uses those ways to his glory. That was my revelation later in life. It’s not MY purpose, it’s his. It’s not MY calling, it’s his. It took me a while to get that living out the great commandment is each Christians true purpose. Thank you for sharing your experience!
I’ve had ordinary, yet profound awakenings parenting and teaching. If those moments alone are my “purpose” then amen and amen.
Great post, Amanda!