“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
We have a clock. Well, we used to have a clock in our bedroom. It was lovely and decorative and it was perfect for a blank space on our wall. However, as long as I can remember that clock has not keep “good time.” It seemed to always be 10 minutes fast. We’ve tried fixing that by resetting it to the correct time, changing the battery, and then setting it ten minutes before the actual time to compensate—to no avail. It still displayed the wrong time. We don’t know if the clock was defective or we had not set it properly. Either way, to us, the clock was not living up to its original purpose—to show us the correct time.
I can relate to this. I feel sometimes like I don’t know my purpose, or that maybe I never had one. I mean, at least a clock has a definite reason to exist. It says so right on its face. But what about me?
According to Genesis 1, Man, Adam, was created to be fruitful and multiply, to take care of the rest of creation, to cultivate the ground (Gen. 2:5) and to name the animals (Gen. 2:20). Woman, Eve, was created to walk alongside Adam in these purposes (especially in the multiplying part).
But we can’t leave the search for our purpose there in the book of Genesis, can we? Our species has to be more than being gardeners and procreators.
I think a lot of people believe that life’s purpose is a career path—doctor, lawyer, pastor, teacher. Purpose might include jobs and relationships (marriage and children). But is that all it is?
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life is when you’re born and the day you find out why.” I think that is clever, but I also think it’s not really complete. I don’t think that one day we wake up with an epiphany as to why we were created and from that moment on, our path is set.
I truly believe that our purpose in life is not a destination, but a journey. This is not my original thought, of course. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson first said it. If this is true, then our purpose on earth is a moveable feast (thank you Mr. Hemingway), so that makes it hard to nail down one purpose. Unlike the clock, we are changing and growing and learning. Shouldn’t our purpose change, too?
Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?” is a book I’ve read before, but I went back to read it again for this blog. It really convicted me and convinced me that I have it all wrong. Warren bases the book around five purposes that are all regarding God’s plan for each of us. Essentially these are 1) to bring God pleasure 2) to be a part of God’s family 3) to become Christ-like 4) to be shaped into God’s service 5) and to complete a unique mission given to each one of us. Using these as guides, I realize it doesn’t matter what my vocation or hobby or daily pursuit is, my purpose can be lived out in whatever direction I go.
My direction may vary often, even daily, but my purpose does not. Purpose is not what I do, but who I am. And who I am will also determine what I do. If who I am is a clock, then I will keep correct time. (The metaphor works in there somehow.) But as a creation of the Almighty One, my life, according to Rick Warren again, is a test, a trust, and a temporary assignment—a dress rehearsal for eternity.
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” (Ephesians 1:11 MSG)