Life on purpose

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I drifted.  I spun in circles.  Each day seemed like the tedious one before. And I was so very weary of being snagged in this eddy of stagnancy.  

Maybe, I thought, it was time for me to read that book about living a purpose driven life.   Years ago when it landed on the best sellers list and became popular among the masses, I settled in on the couch with that edition but after only a chapter or two, I laid it aside and never finished it. 

I just wasn’t interested perhaps because it seemed like my life already held tons of purpose back then.  Happily married with one daughter in college and two active teenagers, I led a jam-packed full and running over life.  Family, church activities, my kids’ school and sports schedules, leading women’s Bible studies.  They all kept me purring like a fine-tuned engine.

A purpose driven life?  I was living it by raising my family, guiding them in faith, and taking care of my loved ones in addition to serving my church and community. My ministry included part-time employment and a calling at a local non-profit organization.  God entrusted me with a seed planted years before, and He gave me the tools to cultivate and nurture that seed while it blossomed and grew into a vibrant, thriving program.  I used my gifts of organizing, speaking, and teaching to strengthen a cause which truly became my passion.  

A purpose-driven life?   A resounding yes.

That’s probably why that book did not grab my attention then.  Understanding what on earth I was here for? I got that because I already knew I was “planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, shaped for serving God, and made for a mission.”   Leading a purpose-driven life by actively serving God on a mission?  Yes, a thousand times yes. So I closed the book, returned it to the shelf, and continued on my merry way.

That way steered me to where I am now over a decade later.  The very aspects of those years, those meaningful times that gave me purpose, changed dramatically or ceased completely.  My children became independent adults, leading their own lives far from home, first as college students, then in their careers, and finally when they all married. 

And I found that all of those facets of life that kept me humming along on my road of purpose halted.  Through one thing or another, even leading women’s Bible studies also concluded. The empty nest threatened to knock me off course for a while.  But the final straw came last September when I was forced to resign from my ministry and passion for over 12 years.  

I remember how that event sent me literally reeling.  Losing my ministry proved devastating, it ripped away my sense of purpose and left me bleeding.  I truly felt like a ship without a rudder.  Since then, I drifted, I wafted, I spun in circles, and even crashed – hard – on the rocks of disappointment and disillusionment. 

What purpose did all of that serve?  At the time, I did not have a clue.

And if I’m perfectly honest, I confess I’m still a little clueless after spending a year in retrospect, thinking and re-thinking about what I should do with my life.  What is my redefined purpose? 

I  have prayed.  I have explored other options.  I have searched high and low for another mission and even just another occupation.    

And I found myself still drifting….and waiting…and frankly, getting a little annoyed with the process.  So I pulled that book about a purpose driven life down off the shelf, blew the dust off the top of the volume, and opened it to read this statement: It’s not about you.

Okay, I already know that.  As a long-time believer in Christ, I suspect I’ve already learned quite a bit of the wisdom imparted in this book. I know that my life’s purpose is to glorify God.  I got that.   What I’m not so sure about is how I’m supposed to do that.

So it was no coincidence that while pondering this dilemma for the last few weeks, someone prepared a message for a worship service.  A message to be delivered in a church other than my own.  A message that I needed to hear.

Don’t you just love when God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Listen up.  This one is for you.”  A spur of the moment trip to visit one set of our married, grown offspring placed me in their church sanctuary one Sunday morning listening to a lay person deliver the message.

It never ceases to amaze me when God speaks to us through our fellow believers.  The man in the pulpit delivered a message encompassed in a simple nutshell – our purpose here on earth is to glorify God.    Okay, second time that week to receive that message. 

Our job, the reason we were created, is to declare the Lord’s glory to the world.  Those were his words but the message for me is in the italics.   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  (Emphasis mine) ~ Romans 8:28

See I think I have been searching for a big purpose for my life.  Big, not small.  Grandiose, not gracious.   Glory seeking, not glory giving.  My purpose, not His.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Again emphasis mine) ~ Proverbs 19:21

My plans are not necessarily God’s plans. 

Think God wants to pound that thought into this thick skull of mine?  I do. 

Because attaining goals I thought would give my life purpose were actually aspects which would glorify….me.  And you know what?  Glorifying myself would set me even more adrift on the sea of self.  Self-adulation, self-absorption, self-centeredness, selfishness…self, self, self. 

And when my world is full of self, there’s no room for Jesus.  And when there’s no room for Jesus, I truly have no purpose.

That’s definitely not in the plan. 

 “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder – a waif, a nothing, a no man.” – Thomas Carlyle

wordsmatter3[#WordsMatter — You can create your own word, verse, even family name with wooden block letters – Letterpress Blocks  – from DaySpring Gifts & Cards and (in)courage.  Just visit here to create your custom one or see the pre-made signs.] 

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16 responses

  1. Well done, my friend. I think we all are searching for some “big” purpose in our lives at one point or another. Maybe the small things to us are God’s big things? I just have to take life one day at a time these days and pray that God will reveal His purpose for that day… so much to learn and so much growth ahead in the days to come, for sure. Learning to just keep it simple and ask the question each morning at the end of my quiet time… “What would you like for me to do today, God?” Praying for obedience when I don’t really understand the answer and discipline to follow when I do understand. Letting go… a little more each day hopefully. I’m also learning more and more about God’s ability to surprise me in my “free time.” Keeping unscheduled time in my schedule has been a real eye-opener for me lately in how God uses that time, both in my own life and in the lives of a few others. Lysa Terkurst’s new book, The Best Yes, is fabulous in speaking to this area of my life. Again, enjoyed reading your most thoughtful post today! ❤

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  2. Very well said Mama, and I think you’ve captured perfectly what many other women are dealing with, from us empty nesters, or those who are just beginning motherhood and chafe at what can seem like an ‘unproductive’ life in the world’s eyes. I too, mourn over how much S-E-L-F has taken over in my life. Great post, much wisdom. 🙂

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    • This post truly was hard work. I agonized over it for weeks and can’t tell you how many times I wrote it, then re-wrote it. Finally when I just let the Lord have His say in it, it came together perfectly. Just like His plans for us. Why does it take me so long to get that? 😉

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  3. Hmmmm, that was very good, and hit very close to home! I really am enjoying this “stage” of my life, but some days, I wonder just what my purpose is, and like you I find myself being spun around in that circle of self-defeat. Thank you for sharing from your heart – it certainly touched mine.
    Becky

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  4. Cindy,

    This is such a good post about who is truly in charge of our purpose. You are so strong and brave. Even in the midst of despair you looked to God and are able to share a testimony about it. Thank you for this heart felt and touching post.
    ~Lovelle from DaySpring

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  5. hmmm, how’d I miss this before? I hear your words and they are a reminder to me about His purpose and not mine. A similar struggle I find myself in the midst of ministry! Sweet words from you friend. As long as we are bringing glory to him we are living His purpose and you are. You are!

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  6. As a husband of one for 39 years today and father of five, grandfather of seven, these shared words of purpose and destiny and hope resonate with me.
    At 30, life took a turn that I did not expect and really only began to fully resolve in the past couple of years. I found my purpose was wrapped up totally in Someone who loved me intimately yet did not give me the simple answers and solutions like it seemed others walked in so simply.
    A major career change at 60 brought a new kind of ministry into my life, one I saw no inherent list of skills being developed during the previous three decades. But He is a Master at assignments and choreography – it now appears my course will be considerably different and longer than I had anticipated.
    But God is good and He equips those with assignments. I wake up daily with asking Him to show me His plans.

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    • Emery, your comment brought me such encouragement and I appreciate it so very much! Thank you for sharing your story with me. I’ve been struggling with this ‘career/life’ change thing and I know God is orchestrating something new for me because yes, He IS the Master at assignments and choreography.

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  7. Pingback: Surprise, surprise! | Mama's Empty Nest

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