Purpose, on the Lawn.
Remember those “40 Days of Purpose” signs that peppered yards across America? (They fell somewhere between WWJD bracelets and Prayer of Jabez designer ties . . . If you spoke Evangelical at the turn of this century, you know what I mean.)
Whether you jumped on, fell off, or watched from afar, The Purpose Driven (Rick Warren) bandwagon likely rattled past you at some point. Opinions aside, we can all agree that this movement struck a nerve inside, and even outside of Christian culture.
Purpose, at 40,000 ft.
“I’ve seen that around,” nodded the woman sitting beside me in Seat B, “but what’s it really about?” (Twenty years ago – prior to I-things – airplane conversation existed beyond takeoff and landing courtesy nods, along with the tiny bags of peanuts.) She strained her eyes at the book resting in my lap. As a card-carrying Evangelical in the early ‘00’s, I owned it – along with WWJD bracelets of varying colors. (No Jabez tie.)
“I’ve been meaning to read it,” she replied – perhaps more out of pop culture curiosity than a desire to delve into the spiritual. Maybe she was just trying to pass the time as we flew from Denver to Boston. Yet the nature of her questions, and our ensuing exchange reflected genuine inquiry. In hindsight, it’s not that surprising:
Purpose is the lifeblood that courses through our veins. How we define it, attain or maintain it propels us forward. Losing or lacking it, can thrust us into a dangerous tailspin.
I didn’t think much about purpose then, or even let my thoughts linger past this dialog. I was too busy looking the part – doing what I thought all good Christians did: I read the “in” book and was dutifully inspired, for about a day. I subsequently missed the point, and then carried on with my life.
But here and now – almost two decades later, purpose is no longer content to lie dormant. She is stirring – somewhere deep inside me, tucked away.
Awkward Purpose, in a Coffee Shop.
“What’s your life’s purpose?” queried the woman next to me as we sipped our respective lattes. She swung towards me in her stool and leaned on the glossy hardwood table. We had been friends for about three minutes. (Note to introverts: This is a beautiful conversation stopper.) I can small talk with the best of them, but this pitch came in with some serious muster. I had no words.
I finally spit out something stream-of-consciousness: Something about “following God and serving Him.” It sounded fabricated and contrived, like a script I’d rehearsed. On a deeper level, it felt flat-out false. I genuinely long for this to be my life’s mission – my one purpose.
But if I’m honest, I think my heart sits elsewhere.
Purpose, on a Mountainside.
I want to articulate a better answer – not just for her, but for myself. This time, it’s not about a bandwagon, bumper sticker, or yard sign. This time, I don’t want to miss the point, and move on with my life.
So, I’m setting out to wrangle with purpose: To engage it without pretense – and with honesty. I’m not exactly sure how to get there, but I have a hunch that I won’t find what I’m looking for in 21st century font or within forty days.
I’m turning instead to some ancient words uttered on a mountainside.
The views from here are breathtaking, but also a bit terrifying . . .
I would love some company.