I’ve been on a little journey of the character-growing kind of late. Relationships have been challenged – some have grown, and some wilted under the onslaught. Assumptions have been examined and found wanting – assumptions I never knew I had.
Like the one where I thought because I am honest, and forthright, I have to speak my mind always.
The one that said I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut, even when I knew it was a better course of action.
Or that I am in fact always right. Which means by default you must be wrong. (Turns out we can both be right, who knew?)
Or the one that said each of us has one single great big purpose (thing) that we should be doing. And if we don’t do that, we’ll never be truly happy. Which is bit like believing that we each have one soulmate on the earth, and if we don’t meet and marry them, there will exist forever in our hearts an emotional hole. I don’t believe that either.
Sure some people will obviously have a dream that they achieve – you know, Olympians, and presidents and such, but that doesn’t mean for those of us that don’t get to be presidents or achieve “great” things, there is no hope of true and lasting happiness. Purpose is less one thing, and more a general direction. It’s plans, hopes and a future (to quote Jeremiah 29). Otherwise your purpose would be the one most important thing – and who is to say what that most important thing is? And when you’ve done that one most important thing, what do you do with the rest of the days allotted to you? Live them out in misery?
So no, purpose is like an arrow, or a thread running through the fabric of your life. If your life were a novel or a film or a poem, it would be the theme. And this takes the pressure off, because rather than trying desperately to grasp a hold of the one thing that will make you happy; the one purpose that defines who you are; there can be a multitude of expressions of this theme. Like rhyme schemes in a poem, or genres of films. Sure, some might fit better than others, but try them out. Life is long enough that we can have a first draft of these things.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I used to think that my purpose was to write stuff, but that’s not it at all. Then so many people got annoyed with me, I thought I was supposed to annoy people (less because they got annoyed with me, more because I wasn’t bothered that they got annoyed with me). But then I realised that my purpose is more than just one thing, that I was made not just to write, or to annoy people, but to inspire, and encourage, and help people learn to tell their own stories with strength, and hope and courage.
(And just to be clear, annoying people? Just to annoy them? Why?)
So breathe a little. Give yourself a little grace. Try things, think things. Find the theme of your life and make it stronger. Because if you do that, we all become a little stronger.