My mom sat on the couch in her room at the assisted living facility and stared out the window. “I’m no good to anybody. I’m stuck here until I die. I’m useless.” Her heart dripped with sadness.
“What do you like to do?” I asked her. “What makes you come alive?”
“I say my rosary every day praying for you, your brother and sisters, and your families. I have a list of everyone who’s asked for prayers. When I feel lonely, I take out the list and ask God to bless each person.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t seem like I’m doing much.”
“You’re doing more than you realize, Mom. I feel the droplets of grace from your prayers—they rain down on us, surrounding us, blessing us. You’re a prayer warrior. You have the gift of intercessory prayer.”
“You know, when I pray, my loneliness disappears. I feel connected to God and to all those for whom I pray.” Mom’s frown lifted into a beaming smile. Her heart turned from bleak to bright. She’d discovered her purpose.
Purpose Matters—a Lot
According to a 2010 study reported in Very Well Mind, a mental health on-line resource, individuals with a sense of purpose tend to live longer. Having purpose results in positive health benefits such as fewer strokes and heart attacks, better sleep, and a lower risk of dementia and disabilities.
When we discover and live out our purpose, we feel connected to God. We gain confidence in ourselves. Our self-respect returns as we realize we’re helping bring about the kingdom of love on earth.
Having purpose matters—for our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Did Jesus Live With Purpose?
Jesus discovered and lived into his purpose in each season of his earthly life.
As a child, he was a craftsman working alongside Joseph creating tables and chairs for villagers. Their father-and-son handiwork helped feed and clothe the Holy Family and furnished the townsfolks’ homes.
When Jesus went to the Temple as a young man, he grew into his gift of teaching. Unrolling the scrolls and proclaiming he was the fulfillment of what scripture promised, Jesus embraced his calling as the Son of Man.
At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus initially hesitated when asked to change water into wine. He wondered if he had the power to perform miracles. With his mother’s encouragement, Jesus stepped into another season of his life as a miracle-worker, curing the sick, and raising the dead.
Atop the mountain at the Transfiguration, Jesus heard his Father reveal his plan that Jesus was to die and rise again. Jesus stepped into his fate and carried the cross up the hill at Calvary. It was his purpose, and God gave him the strength and courage to fulfill it.
Do We Have a Purpose?
Like Jesus, we too have a purpose. It’s much more than a caveman or cavewoman survival instinct. It’s a lot better than the pleasure-seeking approach to life that never satisfies us.
Living with purpose is our reason for living. It’s why we’re here. It’s what gives meaning to our lives.
Like Jesus and my mom, once we discover our purpose, we become fully alive! We accept the joy and the responsibility of participating in bringing about the kingdom of love. Living out our purpose allows us to experience wholeness. Fulfillment.
How Do We Discover Our Purpose?
As we prepare to move into a new year, it’s a good time to ask some of the simple, yet important, questions that help us discover our purpose. Asking ourselves these questions are a starting point toward living the life we and God imagine:
What do I want? Really want?
What’s my passion? What makes me come alive?
What gives meaning to my life?
What do I like to do, and would do, even if I didn’t get paid for it?
Where does my greatest joy meet the world’s greatest need?
What are my spiritual gifts? How do I discover them? How do I discern the invitation to use those gifts in this season of my life?
This Is How We Do It
While there’s no cookie-cutter approach to discovering our purpose in life, here’s several steps you can take to jump-start your journey toward wholeness:
Take a Spiritual Gifts Inventory
When I was in my early 30s, my purpose was raising my children and putting food on the table for my family. That purpose gave life meaning, and I’m grateful for that season.
Yet, something in me kept tugging at my heart. Once my children were launched, I felt like another season was calling me.
A wise guide introduced me to a spiritual gifts inventory. I took it and discovered my top gifts were writing, teaching, encouragement, and discernment. Helped by my spiritual director, I discovered what God was calling me to do in the second half of my life. I took classes and got the necessary training to prepare for this new season.
Now at age 62, the preparation God had me do back then has allowed me to gracefully slide into a new season of life with a new purpose.
Here’s a link to a free Spiritual Gifts Inventory you can download and take to discover your unique gifts: Take the Spiritual Gifts Inventory.
Find a Guide
Contrary to what our “I can do it myself” culture suggests, we don’t live life alone. We need other people who mirror back to us who we are and how we’re being invited to live out our purpose in each season of life.
We need someone to whisper, “Grow!” Someone to keep us on track. Someone to tell us we can do it.
A life coach, spiritual mentor, spiritual friend, or a trained wisdom teacher who listens with us to the whisper of the Holy Spirit can serve as guides to get us to the other side of where we want to be.
Get Your Quiet On
The noise of the world is loud and distracting. Our minds keep demanding, “Entertain me!” We’re lured with constant urges to play video games, check out social media, or discover what the sky-is-falling news media is alerting us to.
When we establish a daily routine of getting quiet, we create a healthy inner space to shut off the world’s din so we can listen to the inner voice of love.
In the silence, our hearts open to hear Divine wisdom and guidance. We connect with something larger than ourselves. Some call that something a Higher Power, God, the Holy Spirit, or Divine Intuition. Whatever you call it, it desires to speak to you.
Taking time to be still and listen allows God to guide us toward the life we imagine. It unfolds the path we can follow to get there.
Get your quiet on each day and see how it transforms you.
Dreams Take Work
Henry Thoreau said it succinctly:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
Thoreau didn’t wake up one morning and pop! his dreams had come true. Instead, he lived into the life he imagined. He did the work to make his dreams a reality.
He moved to Walden Pond, where he built his home. He adopted a strict diet. He spent long hours in nature observing and recording the local flora and fauna, reading, and writing. He wrote in his journals, which later he polished and included in his book, Walden. He also spent much time in meditation.
These simple but courageous steps allowed Thoreau to find the inner freedom and wholeness he desired.
Like Thoreau, we need to ask ourselves what we want. Once we determine what that is, we need to pull up the sleeves of our hearts and lives, and take the steps toward our dream.
Push Through the Glass Ceiling of Your Upper Limits
In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks says that we each have a comfort zone we lull ourselves into. Our jobs and homes, for example, create a safety net that cause us to become complacent.
When we push ourselves to move toward a dream or accept an invitation to move to the next level of success, we bump into our fears. We hit our upper limit of success, and the what-if-I-fail monger grips our guts.
This fear is natural, and so is our ability to push through it. We can break the glass ceiling that seeks to stifle and limit us.
The solution to our upper limit problem, Hendricks says, is to identify it, and then make the big leap beyond our fears into the life we want and need to become whole.
Let’s Do It in 2022
The global pandemic has caused us to re-evaluate who we are, what’s important in life, and what kind of life we want to live.
Give yourself the gift of finding your purpose. Make this your New Year’s resolution: to name the life you want to live into it.
Sit down with God, a trusted friend, or a wise guide, and follow the steps outlined above. You deserve to live the life you imagine.
God is dreaming a dream in you. Name it! Do it! Live the life you and God imagine.
—brian j plachta
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