“What is my purpose in life?” Every human who’s ever breathed has pondered this fundamental question.
Culture attempts to dictate where we look for purpose. When we first meet people, we box them in, defining them by their careers and relationships. Our judgment and search for identity can even make us brutal toward one another.
The truth is that purpose comes from more than these things.
Jobs and relationships don’t define you. They’re simply small parts of something much greater.
You are a person with a story. Your story is made up of the relationships, experiences, passions and dreams you give to the world. All of these things are uniquely you.
You may not have the dream career, the perfect family or the life experiences you’d hoped for, yet all of that led you to today.
As we search for personal identity, we interact with those around us, shaping others just as they shape us. We make mistakes. We grow, adapt and change along the way.
Our interactions with one another don’t happen in a vacuum. We each play a small part within a much larger narrative.
In a novel, even minor characters hold a purposeful place within the story. While you’re the star in your story, you hold a minor but essential role in the story of every person you come in contact with.
When Jesus walked on earth, people from all different walks of life would come to Him and ask questions. One of them, an expert in the law, tried to trick Jesus. The man was part of a group who judged people by how well they obeyed the strict religious laws of that time.
He asked, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:36-40, New International Version).
When we love, we’re fulfilling what God created us for. And as we enter into the stories of others, we leave a positive, lasting reminder that love is the answer. We are modeling the example Jesus left for us.
“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NIV).
We each have a role to play in the greater story. How we live out our purpose won’t look the same in each person’s life.
Filmmaker Rik Swartzwelder once thought his passion for films and storytelling couldn’t fit within his life’s purpose. But he discovered his career didn’t have to be at odds with his faith.
Purpose can actually be found within your career and relationships. Not because they’re titles you hold but because you’ve chosen to use them as tools to love well.
Mother Teresa beautifully captured how we can live out our purpose in the day to day when she said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”
If you feel like your work is defining you and you want it to change, try these three ideas.
In the quest for success, it’s easy to neglect your health. Though you may be able to ignore the needs of your body for a while, they will eventually catch up with you. But taking care of your body actually gives you a greater capacity to succeed and live up to your potential in all areas of life.
When we show up in our cities and neighborhoods and move toward people with helpful action, we can bring change through the love of God.
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