My daughter and I went out to dinner tonight and the subject of purpose came up. She said, “I wonder what my purpose is here on earth? I mean, what have I accomplished in the twenty two years I’ve been here? If I were to die in a car wreck, what would people say that I’ve done?” All these questions over nachos, it seemed pretty intense for casual dinner conversation. How had we gone from football schedules to this? My immediate thought was to give her the standard answer, the one I really believe but probably overuse. But, before I could get the words out of my mouth, the Lord stopped me.
I felt strongly in my heart that I needed to be very thoughtful before I offered her any reasoning on the subject.
First let me confess that I sat there thinking, “You’re twenty two, I have furniture older than you, it’s okay if you haven’t saved the world yet.” But, I could tell from her expression that it was really bothering her so I prayed silently and asked God for wisdom. My daughter is getting ready to graduate from college this spring and is struggling with what’s next. I knew this question was directly related to her future that seemed so close at hand, she was feeling so unsure of what to do next and how to make her life matter.
Some people know from infancy, it seems, what they want to do with their future. Others of us seem to figure it out as we go. Oh, we look back and can see from where God has brought us, but we never really see exactly where He’s taking us. I am one of those people. Maybe, I figure, some of us only need to know one step at a time, it keeps us depending on God and on our knees in prayer.
But that doesn’t keep us from struggling with the feelings of uncertainty. And those feelings inevitability foster insecurity and doubt about whether or not our lives matter.
And that’s exactly where my daughter was in her heart sitting across from me nibbling on nachos.
I took a deep breath and began to speak, “I guess that depends on what you consider to be purpose. If you’re looking for trophies or great achievement or the applause of men, then, you probably haven’t felt a sense of purpose. Because that’s recognition, and you’ll have time for that as your life unfolds. But, if you really think about the things that matter, the things that are eternal, you have lots of purpose.”
I could see that I had her attention. I could read her mind, I knew she was wondering what she had done that had made a difference or that had any eternal value. So I started bringing up examples of people that I knew she had impacted by simply living her faith. People she had invited to church, some of them still attend to this day. People she had been kind to that had been pretty horrible to her. I know her willingness to forgive and not hold a grudge impacted them. She did it all with the goal of wanting to be a light for Jesus.
For the objective of our conversation, I looked up the term purpose. It means “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
You see, purpose isn’t about our achievements, it’s about the reason we get up in the morning. What motivates us to go to bed at night with a resolve to get up and try again the next day. It’s about recognizing the REASON we want to achieve. It is the motivating factor in our decisions, what makes us feel fulfilled and fills up with hope. It’s what keeps us going when we want so badly to give up.
Purpose drives us to action and keeps us focused.
There are no amount of accolades that will make us feel purpose, so many times we have it backwards. Purpose is what keeps us working hard and in the process our life begins to take shape and we accomplish some great things. But that’s because of our purpose, the accomplishments are NOT the purpose in and of themselves. They are the RESULT of being driven by our purpose. So, purpose drives us to accomplish and in turn our accomplishments should glorify God.
We were created for the purpose of glorifying God.
When I used to hear vague statements like that in the past, I roll my eyes in my mind and think, “okay, explain glorifying God in my life. I mean, what does that mean? What does it look like?” Sometimes we speak in church language and the message gets lost in the vagueness of the terms. I am no Bible scholar, I’m just a mom who’s had kids who asked a lot of questions. But, I feel that glorifying God is just as practical and everyday as cleaning your house or washing your car. It’s not magical or logical, it’s simply doing whatever it is you do in life realizing that you represent someone much greater than yourself. And maybe because of your hard work at whatever it is you’re doing a friend or stranger might decide to ask Jesus into their hearts.
That’s what it all boils down to. People asking Jesus into their hearts.
So if our purpose (the reason for which we were created) is glorifying God, and if we make our purpose the motivating force of our life, then suddenly we are freed from worry about career choices and chasing opportunities. And we won’t worry about the impact we hope to have around us because we will submit ourselves to the direction of the Lord and He won’t steer us wrong.
His purpose and our purpose will be the same.
And we will accomplish great things that will glorify Him.
As you can imagine by the time our conversation wound up it was late and our nachos were cold. We left with full hearts and somewhat full stomachs. Honestly the conversation was a lot better than the nachos, I’ve decided that bar b que sauce on chips and cheese was NOT a great accomplishment.