Finding your Purpose
“Do you know your purpose?”
The clinical psychologist who asked me that question didn’t wait for me to answer.
“I think deep down you do.”
When I felt the call from God to become an Associate in Ministry (AiM) in our church, one of the many requirements in the early first steps was to participate in a three-day psychological evaluation. My family joked that I would go to Columbus for the test and never return. They laughed that I would be locked up in a mental hospital for the rest of my life.
Some days as a mother of three teens and a workaholic hubby, I already felt like my home was the asylum. Love my crazy family, but I digress…
In the very helpful discussions with psychologist, I recognized that the work I was doing then at the local health department no longer aligned with what I deeply felt God was inviting me into. What used to match up with my purpose in a previous season, no longer fit.
I passed the church’s mental evaluation but left Columbus openly searching for my meaning as I entered the second half of life. The inner work began to rediscover/rename my purpose in life.
Finding your purpose is an ongoing ever-evolving spiritual practice and one we will be exploring together on Tending the Holy Thursdays in January.
Today, I want to discuss the basics and then later in the month we can look at more tips and how to’s, quotes for inspiration about the purpose in life and lessons in how we continually grow with this practice in our spiritual journey.
The Spiritual Practice of Finding our Purpose
Who am I? Why am in here? What is my spiritual contribution to this world?
Three very deep questions that if we are honest, every human at one time or another faces.
What do we do when we hear those questions in our heart? Some of us drown them out with the noise of the world or food or drugs or alcohol or busyness. We may glance at them briefly and then pack them away in some dark corner hoping they don’t sneak out when we are vulnerable. We find ourselves at crossroads and forced into life transitions that stir up the desire to find our core meaning to life.
But as people of faith, we do have an authentic desire to fulfill God’s purpose for us on earth. Wrestling with these difficult to answer questions is part of God’s process of forming us into his masterpiece.
“I think deep down you do.” When the psychologist said that to me, I wasn’t sure I believed him but his words rang true. I felt like my calling was more like the wind that I couldn’t catch in my hands or a butterfly that would land briefly and then soar out of sight.
A part of our soul is seared with the words of our purpose. We know it is there, but can’t quite articulate it. Participating in the spiritual practice of finding our purpose appears when we attempt to write in out in ink just the right words to capture the ideas tumbling forth as we search. Maybe we catch a glimpse when we say it aloud to friend or a spiritual director. We hear a phrase spoken or written by someone else that resonates within our heart.
Why is Finding your Purpose Important?
As I find the words that best capture my purpose in life, I am discovering surprising benefits:
- Clarity – When I see my true self as I believe God see me, I hear and see God in new ways. Not only do I begin to see myself through the Creator’s eyes, but I see others as he does too.
- Clutter – When you know yourself you can identify sooner when and why things seem off kilter. Clutter for example. I like order. When I see clutter start to pile up in my office, the stacks tell me I may be cluttering up my purpose too. Clutter has become a warning system to me that I need to realign myself once again to the compass of why I am here.
- Discernment – Knowing my purpose helps me know when to say yes and gives me the strength and courage to say no. This has been a great help in decision-making. Is this where I should spend my time? Is this my best yes?
- Focus – Focus is a much-needed skill in this noisy world full of distraction. Knowing your why keeps you on course.
- Perseverance – I get trapped in the muddy middle of life and projects and lose steam to finish what I started. Keeping my heart and eyes on my purpose helps me persevere through confusing detours, distractions, and dips in life’s journey.
- Life-Giving – I feel more confident and energized when I am living in or close to my purpose. Your life has meaning when you are aligned with your core meaning in life. Being attuned with something greater opens up our eyes to enjoy even in the mundane aspects of life when it is where we are called to be.
I remember a conversation with my mother during the time I was a nursing student.
“How can you spend your time wiping people’s butts?” she asked, shaking her head in disgust.
“But mom that IS nursing. Taking care of someone in a time or situation that they cannot take care of themselves is ok. I can help them. I have something to offer them. It is good. It is life.”
That moment still echoes in my heart as the moment I knew deep down I was a nurse and that was my calling. I knew my purpose for that season.
- God’s gifts – Erma Bombeck said it the best:
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.
Me too, Erma! I don’t want to sleepwalk through this precious gift of life. I want to know God now and be obedient to his calling and to live fully with the life he has given me.
A Warning about Finding your Purpose
I will write more on how to find your purpose next Thursday, but as you begin to ponder your own purpose in life be warned:
Finding your purpose is a lifelong ever-evolving process. Like peeling layers off an onion, sometimes you will cry. And once you think have just the right words, more come along inviting you into a new chapter of life.
And then you may have to let go of something you hold precious. You may have to venture out of your comfort zone. It wasn’t long after that conversation with the psychologist that I decided to leave the health department. I didn’t actually resign for several years, but began the process and the learning more about my next steps.
“A good journey begins with knowing where you are and being willing to go somewhere else.”
“Purpose is the place where you deep gladness meets the world’s needs.”
Tending the Thursdays Next Steps
In the next weeks, we will explore more how to’s, lessons learned and inspirational quotes about finding your purpose. If you don’t get Healthy Spirituality in your inbox (I blog twice a week) and don’t want to miss the rest of this topic, please sign up in the sidebar.
As you start to explore finding your purpose, immerse the whole process in prayer. Ask God for guidance, direction and light for your next step. Seek him first.
Here are a few questions to begin to ponder:
- What in your life has given you energy/makes you feel alive?
- What brings your joy? Contrast that with what brings tears to your eyes?
- What are things you see others doing or wish you could do if time, education, and money were not an issue?
You may want to download below the Spiritual Autobiography Resource Guide. It will lead you through the practice of looking at your life as a whole, seeing significant events and where and when you experienced God. How has your life events shaped your faith?
The Spiritual Autobiography Resource Guide is free, just click on the button, enter your email address and I will email you a copy.
Click Here to Receive the Spiritual Autobiography Resource Guide
Let’s talk. Have you spent time with the spiritual practice of finding your purpose?
What did you learn?
Hi Jean! One thing that’s interesting about our hearts desires, is how they speak so effectively to us. Just us. Your mom couldn’t understand your nursing desires, but you clearly did. What we feel called to do, might not line up with anyone else’s idea of fulfillment at all.
I look forward to your series too, as your other commenters mentioned. We all are interested in being the people God has called us to be. Sometimes, we need help in seeing that clearly. Can’t think of anyone else I’d like to help me do that than you.
Jean Wise says
you are right about my mom and if she hadn’t expressed her feelings about my choice of nursing, I don’t think I would have captured that experience of knowing I WAS on the right path for me. Guess that is a lesson in finding our purpose, listen to your own voice, not the expectations of others. Hope you are well.
Dolly @ Soulstops.com says
I wanted to thank you for your comment in another place about how I am on your daily prayer list since we’re joy buddies this year as “Joy” is the word God placed on both of our hearts. It means a lot to me. I do pray God would continue to reveal to both of us what He has for us and for us to be open. And Erma’s quote made me chuckle. And yes, at different seasons. Earlier in my life, I wouldn’t have ever considered blogging or writing. Blessings, my friend 🙂
Jean Wise says
Yes I love that Erma quote = she has such a gift of words. Love having my joy filled, joy seeking buddy with me on this life’s journey!!
Nancy Ruegg says
Unbidden tears sprang to my eyes as I read: “I don’t want to sleepwalk though this precious gift of life. I want to know God now and be obedient to his calling and to live fully the life has has given me.” Oh, yes, Jean! And I so agree with you that different seasons of our lives fulfill different purposes. (God gives us variety!) I’ll look forward to exploring my current purpose with you over the next few weeks.
Jean Wise says
I think people get so wrapped up on finding just the right purpose instead of thinking how God calls us in different seasons. I want to scream – it is an evolving process people. but then remember it took me many of season to learn that. I really don’t want to sleep walk through this amazing journey but want to take and use all of God’s blessings. Sounds like you do too! I think we are great companions on this road together.
Nancy Ruegg says
I’m delighted to be one of your companions! 🙂
Jean Wise says
You make me smile!!
Martha Orlando says
I have worn many hats in the different seasons of my life just like you have, Jean. It’s when I finally made the commitment to write the story that had floated around in my head for 15 years that I found my purpose and fulfillment in this life. I’m convinced I’m doing exactly what God would have me do.
Looking forward to your next post! Blessings!
Jean Wise says
Wonderful feeling isn’t it? Do you think this is just part of the second half of life? Richard Rohr has said we spend the first part of life, creating the container and the second half, filling it. Makes me wonder.
Tami Brigle says
How is it that every time I decide I need to sit down and read your blog, your posts speak DIRECTLY TO ME?! Looking forward to hearing more about purpose and your journey with it.
Jean Wise says
I think it will be a good topic to explore. I was in a spiritual formation class today and we pondered “What is my deepest desire?” followed right along with what I posted. I hope this helps you and if you want to talk, let’s get together. We live so far apart. LOL