Career, vocation, job—these are words that we find in our world which describe what we do in our lives. They may entail jobs in the business world or on farms or in construction or in non-profits, or self-employment. They may mean unpaid work as a stay-at-home mother or father. But when we talk about purpose in addition to how the world thinks about our work and our lives, we have to think in a whole different way about what God created us to be, what God is calling us to and how we would define that in the present moment or for a longer stretch of time or for a lifetime.
Author, Episcopal priest and professor Barbara Brown Taylor expresses purpose in this way: “While my chosen vocation gave me a really good job in the divine work of creation, it remained a subset of a larger vocation, which was the job of loving God and neighbor as myself. Over the years I have come to think of this as the vocation of becoming fully human.” What if the primary purpose for all of us is to love God and express God’s love to everyone else, and that we are to do that throughout our lives? And, at the same time, we might be expressing that primary purpose through various jobs, careers, vocations, volunteer efforts and in everything that we do? If we all have one primary purpose, then we will each be called to express that purpose in our world differently, since we are not made in a cookie-cutter way.
Unlike a career in the world, our purpose would be fulfilled in anything we were doing, with anyone we happen to meet, in every corner of our lives. We would be living in truth, in love, in forgiveness, in expressing God’s love in everything that we do—in our families, in our leisure time, in our work place, in our churches, in our politics, in everything that we do.
Our purpose is not like a job that we get and hold on to. Although the work that each of us is given may be different, our real purpose is to be a shining example of God’s love and forgiveness in this world in everything that we do. That purpose we share. How we do that and in what circumstances is all about God’s call to each of us. I had two dreams in 2011 which revealed my call to me long after I had given my life to Christ. First, I dreamt that in a conversation with a favorite minister of mine, I was telling him that his job was to inspire the congregation and mine was to connect the dots. When I thought about the meaning of “connecting the dots” over the next few weeks, I heard a call to connect 21st century living to the Biblical teachings. Later that same year I wrote something down in the middle of the night and read it when I woke up: “Make the kingdom real.”
I was already writing this blog, had been for three years, I had already begun this call/purpose/vocation long before I understood exactly what I was doing. The books that I have written since then, Thy Kingdom Come, and Exodus: Our Story, Too!, follow the same call given to me in the dream.
What has God said to you about your purpose/vocation/ministry? How is He calling you to follow Jesus in everything that you do? How are you to express God’s love in this world? So often I think that we’re afraid of what God will ask us to do in this world—to go to Africa or Asia or some remote island and preach the Gospel. But often we are just asked to stay in our own lives here and express God’s love in all that we do.
Our purpose to be God’s love in this world won’t change, but how He asks us to do it probably will evolve and change over a lifetime. From young adulthood through the mid-life, from job change to job change, from parenting young children to being empty-nesters, from employed to retired, from healthy to sick—all these changes in the world also reflect a change in how we will be asked to express our purpose, to be love in this world. There will always be an avenue for us to express God’s love in this world. All we have to do is to listen for God’s call to us.
Hear how Bob Goff, founder of Love Does, a nonprofit which helps women and children in conflict areas like Uganda, Somalia and Iraq, writes about finding your purpose: God “gives us hopes and dreams and desires. He gives us tenacity and resilience and courage. He brings joyful, beautiful, fun people into our lives and a few difficult ones, too. Sometimes He changes the trajectory of our plans by taking away what we’ve comfortably known and letting us fly through valleys that are deeper and narrower than any we’ve been through before.
“Don’t ignore the green lights you already have. What delights you? What fires your imagination? What fills you with a deep sense of meaning and purpose? What draws you closer to God? What is going to last in your life and in the lives of others? Do those things. They’re your green lights.”
It is a wonder to walk purposefully in our lives. It gives extra heft to our lives and import to all that we do. It fulfills us in ways that are unimaginable to us, since we have no idea what God intended when He created each one of us. Purpose brings joy and truth and balance to our lives as we work at the very thing we were created to do. Try it. You’ll love it!
Think of what power God’s love would have on this earth if all 2.2 billion Christians were expressing His love in everything we do. Sometimes I think we are waiting for God to do something to fix this world of ours, but what if God is waiting on us to do the same? To show the world how to be, how to live fully?
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I believe that my purpose is to love God and to express His love and forgiveness in this world? If not, how would I describe my purpose? What is God saying to me now about my purpose in this world? And am I following His suggestion? [Choose the one(s) that seem to call you?]
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who love Him with all of ourselves and share His love and forgiveness with the world. May we be love, joy, peace and blessing with everyone we meet. May we be true to what God is saying to us in this moment and the next.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life.
 Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World,
 Bob Goff, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World full of Setbacks and Difficult People, Nelson Books, Nashville, 2018, p. 91