This Saturday morning Ian was up on his own accord with a smile much larger than a 6am clock warranted. He was headed to his job at the donut shop where he is a greeter. Ian had some place to be, a job was counting on him. He had some purpose. Since Ian’s accident he has had other purposeful stints… volunteering at a preschool, classes at the university and certainly preparation for his art show. But to Ian, this is different. This is ‘normal’, real in his mind.
Purpose, Worth and Value
While I am delighted this job is meaningful to him, it’s also a bit heartbreaking. Who taught him to believe that having a job is where you’ll find purpose? Or worse yet, following the path of ‘normal’ is the only path where you’ll have value.
The Two Boys Donut Shop is brand new in Albuquerque. (If you live in the 505, check it out!) Jean and Brian Vargas, good friends who attend our church, are the owners. While Doug and I are thrilled they created this job for Ian, it is yet to be seen if this shop can sustain such a position. Even so, if he returns to UNM in the fall it’s unlikely he can continue anyway.
What about you?
I hate that Ian finds worth solely from what he does. But isn’t that to some degree how we all roll? When meeting someone new, how soon is it that you ask…”what do you do?” For me, I reserve complete assessment of the person, until I know that about them. And, if I’m honest, my to do list can wield power over me. When few items get crossed off, it taunts me… weren’t you unproductive today. Or… on the rare occasion everything was crossed off, that powerful list puffs me up.
What’s the Point anyway?
While discussing Ian’s next step in life, he has pushed back some on continuing with college. In spite of all his accommodations, it is a struggle. At 23, he is frustrated to still be a junior and impatient to I quote,”start his life.” As parents, we know he needs this extra time to heal, to mature, to re-craft a life with disability. But Ian doesn’t see it that way. Sadly, he feels as if he is biding time. And worth only about four to eight minimum wage hours a week at a donut shop.
Recently when I challenged Ian on his short-sighted thinking, he shouted as he walked away, “what’s the point anyway?”
His question, while probably rhetorical, has bothered me.
Have you pondered this?
Have you ever wondered why you’re on this planet? What is your purpose? Perhaps time is slipping by and the thought of such a big question causes some anxiety. Do you ever think… God have I missed something? What IS the point anyway?
As I’ve wrestled with this deep question wanting my response to resonate with Ian, I realize that I have a HUGE advantage. The answer I’ve come to understand, only fits within the framework of knowing Christ.
The Wrong Vantage Point
This is not a new question. The search for meaning and purpose has puzzled people for centuries. I believe we struggle with the answer because we start from the wrong vantage point — ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like: “What do I want to do with my life? Or what are my goals? What are my dreams for my future? What will make me happy?
ME, ME, ME.
Are you familiar with the NY times #1 best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren? It has been ages since I’ve read it, but I’ll never forget it’s first sentence. It stopped me in my tracks. Wait for it….
It’s not about you.
Ephesians 1:11,12 (MSG) says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.”
I love how these verses read in the Message translation. And this passage, from the proper vantage point, helps us to understand what the point is, anyway.
God Weighs In
1. It is ONLY through a relationship with Christ that I discover my identity which is the fundamental first step to understanding my purpose.
I am a daughter of the King. He chose me to be a co-heir with Christ. Knowing this high calling should influence every decision I make. But ultimately, this divine adoption provides a peace that passes all understanding. In a sense, I can’t screw it up. What a huge relief. And the term for that gift is Grace.
2. God was thinking of me long before I ever thought about Him. He planned my life before I existed, without consulting me!
I may choose my vocation, my husband, my pastimes, and many other parts of my life, but I don’t get to choose my purpose. If you’re a control freak, like me, that statement may taste a bit salty. But until you accept that control is elusive, you will never find freedom. God’s in charge. His purposes prevail and you, should you accept His call, are privileged to participate.
Romans 8:28. 28 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.
3. As Rick Warren says, “The purpose of your life fits into a much larger, cosmic purpose that God has designed for eternity.”
I still don’t understand why some bad things happen. I will never understand. I’m not God. But as a recovering control freak, I know circumstances have completely thwarted my plans for the future. And yet those same circumstances have been masterfully used by God for something so much greater than me. It is clear He was never thwarted. He never will be thwarted.
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
OK, So Now What?
Practically, knowing I belong to Christ and I am a part of His master plan and purpose, what can I do? What should I do?
I think we get the verb wrong. The question should be, not what can I do, but rather who should I be?
My character is what matters. My character, not my career, will escort me into eternity. May I suggest you consider the character qualities that God deems important.
Galatians 5:22,23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Or consider the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 1-10 known as the Sermon on the Mount and where Jesus teaches the disciples how to live.
The way I see it, my purpose is simply to live a life that makes Christ look spectacular. And what I actually do while accomplishing that, is completely secondary.
An Answer for Ian
Even though Ian is not waiting for my response, I do wonder how I could answer him. I’m left on my knees knowing the highest priority and his greatest help is a relationship with Christ. But for now, loving Ian right where he is, with all of his questions, doubts and confusion, I’ll tell him this…
“Ian, the point is… you’re to live in such a way that the world is a better place because you’re in it.” And for now, that will have to do.
GodsGotThis, Debbie Hucke