Perhaps the most dangerous thought that haunts young adults today is the fear of not discovering their purpose. In youth groups and small groups around the country, we constantly ask the question, “What is your purpose?”
And this seems on the surface to be a valid question. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Rick Warren (his book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold I-have-no-idea-how-many-million copies), but I think discovering our purpose can sometimes be over-rated in our society. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not yet been able to get my hands on a copy of the book. Perhaps that may change my point of view.)
But before you tell me I’m wrong, just hear me out. First, I think we all exist for a purpose. I believe that we were created to live and do certain things. I believe in a God who acts with purpose. I believe that we can choose whether to live within our life purpose, or we can live outside of it. But I don’t think purpose should be such a big mystery. I think it really can be summed up quite simply: love God and love others.
Christ tells us these two commandments are really the most important. So if these are the most important, then our purpose should be to live out these commandments 100% of the time. We will fail, but we must try. To do anything else would be living outside our purpose.
So why do I think purpose is overrated? Well first, I’m not talking about the kind of purpose I just talked about above. I’m not talking about loving God and people. If anything, that is underrated. What I’m talking about are the vocational and task focused purposes. I’m talking about those of us (yes, I’m including myself) that fret and stress over where we should work, what non-profit we should donate to, or whether we’ve bought enough pairs of TOMS shoes to equip a small village with footwear.
You see, I don’t believe we discover our purpose like we discover a treasure. When you treasure hunt, you have a map with some vague directions, then you search until you find what you are looking for. But when you discover treasure, you don’t know where it is at one moment, and the next moment you discover it. It is only takes a moment. The whole time you were getting closer and gaining step by step toward the prize, but it’s the point where you actually discover the treasure that is the most important part of the adventure.
I don’t think this is how we should view the process of discovering our purpose. I think it’s more about the journey, not about the pot of gold. It doesn’t occur to you suddenly, but it’s more a moment-by-moment adventure.
On a practical level, this means we don’t stress about discovering our purpose. We simply choose to live. Not just exist, but live. It’s this process of living that brings us into contact with our purpose. I think we often find our purpose when we give up looking for it and instead start living toward it.