I’ll go first… my personalized purpose often seems elusive. It’s not always obvious, and sometimes it takes some seeking to find it.
I’ve had seasons of life when I felt that I was simply surviving. I was doing well to change the next diaper, show up at work the next day, or give my people breakfast before they headed out the door. Life didn’t seem like it held much purpose. It seemed overrun with duties that became a blur as I accomplished them. Ever been there? I believe that’s normal, and sometimes we miss our purpose because of misconceptions we hold. Before I dive into trying to help to find our personalized purposes, let’s define it first.
Personalized Purpose is NOT
Because the topic of calling or purpose can be confusing, we need to confront the misconceptions first. Personalized purpose is NOT:
(Always) Big– Sometimes our purpose leads to big results, but more often it’s small. It’s quiet. Those blurry days of changing diapers and doling out snacks? Those days were filled with the purposes of mothering and loving well. The early days of teaching that I was so overwhelmed and depressed that I could barely drag myself to work? Those were purpose-filled too as I taught children and handled their little lives with love and respect.
Just last week, my spiritual director reminded me that few of us are Martin Luthers, creating whole movements and shifts toward grace. Most of us find our purpose in the small. In the faithful. In the quiet steps of faith.
For example, my participation in Designed for Joy’s Year of Impact is a big deal for me, but small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. I’m one of 25 women, wrestling our way through some big issues and feeling our smallness.
For the Rest of Your Life– Another misconception that we carry about purpose is that there’s one for our whole life. The older I get, the more I appreciate seasons. My personalized purposes have shifted with the seasons of my life. It’s a beautiful paradigm shift that allows us to grasp the grace of do-overs! As we mature, we watch for God’s hand in the seasons and the change that He often brings as things move.
Personalized Purpose IS
God Given– Anytime I talk about personalized purpose, you can be sure of this one thing. I’m referring to the purposes of God in our lives. Personalized purpose, as I define it, is never a try-harder program. It’s not a recipe for success. It’s not another self-help formula.
Because it’s centered in God and on you, a unique creation of the Father, I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all way to find your purpose. Seeking God is the only way to find our God-given personalized purpose. It’s hard and often painful work. It’s requirements are faith, time, silence, perseverance and patience. But God rewards those who seek Him. That’s a promise! (Hebrews 11:6)
Centered on Others– Please hear me. I believe in personal growth and loving yourself as an act of worship to our Creator (Psalms 139:14) But God also calls us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Personalized purpose is more than finding the next Bible study to attend. It’s more than checking off the giving of your tithe. Those are good things, but personalized purpose requires a de-centering of self and an attention to the needs of others.
Action Oriented– Even though my nickname is “Action Amy” (not a compliment… lol!), this is the hard part for me. There’s a time when we have to stop praying about it, reading about it, studying it, surveying others, etc. We have to act. To do something. My friend Lynn passed on a definition to me that’s really clear:
When we know what our purpose is, it’s time to put boots on the ground and start doing God’s work to benefit others. I know it’s hard and scary, but hang with this community. We’re in it together!
Seeking & Finding Your Personalized Purpose
As much as I dearly love a formula, I’m going to resist giving you one. It would only set us all up for failure and disappointment. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of questions to take into God’s presence. Ask Him to sit and think with you, to show you His ways, and to reveal His thoughts. Journal what He reveals in this time. It may take many sittings with God, but the time will be worth it.
- What needs are the people around me experiencing?
- What suffering is around me that makes my heart squeeze with pain?
- Where can I serve that most directly connects my heart with Yours?
- What gifts have You given me, Lord, that I can put to work?
- What resources have You provided that I can share?
Spending time with God and wrestling through these questions will bring us to our personalized purpose. I believe it’s often right in front of us if we’ll pay attention to the desires/pain God’s planted in our hearts and the gifts we already hold.
Question for You: Did these questions bring you closer to understanding your personalized purpose? What other points of clarity might you need?
Related Resource: I’m still working to embrace the small purposes. (Boy do I dearly love the grand gesture!) Here’s more of my processing in The Power of Downsized Expectations.