What am i going to do with my life?
I put in my earbuds and tuned into the podcast I usually engage with on Monday mornings. Little did I know, I was about to uncover the reason for the battleground surrounding my destiny.
Do you know your purpose in life? Take a hot minute and ask yourself this question. Take a pause right now. Do you really know why you are alive right now?
When the podcast ended, I sat in my car and thought, "What is the defining pursuit of all time for all humans everywhere?"
The reason this question is a defining moment is, because all of your life's work from the point of recognizing you are human, will be filtered by the pursuit of one of two things.
Sigmund Freud remarked that all of mankind, when you boil it all down, is seeking pleasure. The things which make us feel good, we seek after.
I want to respond, "That's right. I see that. I feel that."
As a child, one of my greatest pleasures was riding my bicycle. The cherry red metal frame and shiny chrome spokes carried my little childhood self around the neighborhood for hours on end. Feeling the wind against my face in a downhill coast brought significant pleasure.
I saw people looking, sometimes staring at my bright-eyed expression, tooling around like Napoleon with the city at my disposal. This probably accounts for why I wasn't home until sunset, and my dinner waiting on the counter was cold. It felt good to be out on my own in the element of my choosing. My pleasure meter was full tilt.
This could also be the reason my girlfriend was pregnant before we were married. At twenty years of age, I gazed at the gorgeous blonde girl in the choir at a church service one Sunday morning. I found out later she'd been eyeing me from the choir loft as well.
My heart beat was unusually fast in her presence. When I thought of leaving the warmth of her hug, it was like tearing hundred year old wallpaper from the wall. My mind went wild every day thinking of what I had always longed for with a girl.
I wanted her and she wanted me. The ecstasy of losing our virginity was something I wished I would have saved for the marriage bed. We experienced pleasure, of course, but in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If I had a coffee date with Freud, I'd take a sip of joe, gulp and say, "I agree that crossing the pleasure threshold of being human is an awesome experience, but pleasure is severely short lived and unsustainable." He'd definitely disagree with me but maybe we'd stay friends?
It's exhausting and expensive striving to fulfill one pleasurable desire after another. Ask any addict, they'll tell you.
However, another man not nearly as popular in public opinion, Viktor Frankl, had a different theory of what drives people deeply: the search for purpose. A deep sense where life has meaning and there's something important about living.
I cashed in on that little red bicycle and began pursuing theatre. Yeah, I spell it this way as an ongoing reminder of my love for the stage. One evening toward the end of high school, I was overwhelmed with the fear of graduating and stepping into only God knows what. Overhearing friends talk about a passion to be a nurse or getting their CPA degree left me wondering if I was even normal.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after graduation. Sitting down on the edge of my mom's bed as she read a magazine, I asked the most basic existential question we ask⏤"Mom, what am I going to do with my life?"
"Besides lunch and recess, what subjects in school did you enjoy the most?" she asked. This seemed like a reasonable question. After just a few moments I responded with, "Drama class … I love drama class."
Without hesitation my mom responded with, "Well, go be an actor!" And with those simple words, I felt like I had received a calling from the Creator of the universe. Something resonated in me, and I truly believed I could give the world something from the stage which would bring them joy.
Honestly though, many of my experiences the next 3 years in college theatre were not about what I could offer the world. More accurately, it was still all about me and what pleasure I could get from the applause, the glistening tear in the front row or the belly laugh out of the guy behind the balcony rail.
The applause was still my drug, but something deeper began to brew. This was definitely my first step away from sheer personal pleasure and into exposing a deeper sense my life had a purpose.
Crisis can be a great motivator for change. When my girlfriend became pregnant, everything changed. Fear, worry, and frustration all ganged up on my soul and stole my heart and mind.
Sin takes advantage whenever it can and is determined to wreak havoc. Walking out how to resolve and fix the situation my girlfriend and I were in wasn't easy. We didn't make all the right decisions, but one thing we did right is summed up in two words, "We're sorry."
Repentance can be so liberating. Real repentance opens the prison doors of shame and guilt and lets you run wild in the fields of freedom. Our parents forgave us. Our church forgave us and after a fast wedding, we both were seeking purpose together.
As we worked to just survive, our prayers became centered on finding our calling and direction. We believed, if we would listen to God's voice, look around at what could be and risk to follow Jesus wherever He leads, purpose would emerge. All it took was for me to say, "Yes!" to Him. Deep peace and assurance came in over my soul like a tsunami flood.
What I said, "yes," to was God's still small voice which had been calling me for a very long time. The voice would speak to me in my conscious mind and guide me on what I should do. I just didn't want to do what it said. Call me stubborn, it's okay. I've been called worse.
God was touching a spot in my heart with a calling to do what I never wanted. Yet, I could not escape it. The calling I received was to "Preach." On a scale of 1-10, the idea of becoming a preacher was like negative 3,000. So, you can say I had been running. Runners do tire and at this stage in my early 20's, I couldn't run to my 80's and survive.
Surrendering is a funny thing. Mostly, we think it's giving up and a ruthless takeover from some enemy camp leaving us desperate for life. However, surrendering to Jesus has the complete opposite effect. To surrender is to live and living is what we were made to do in the first place.
Everytime I had conversations with my new wife, pastor, family and friends about this new calling on my life, I found welling up inside of me a real sense I was embarking on something very meaningful.
I was going to be engaged in an area of life many have struggled to understand. Bringing awareness of God's love for humanity, His care for His creation, and His ultimate plan for each individual on planet earth gave me passion and purpose.
For the first time, I realized this wasn't about me any longer. My life was to be used to truly bless others. I was here to point people toward the love of the Father. If they could know Him, their lives would be radically changed and they too could discover their true identity and purpose.
The pursuit to fulfill my purpose led me to become a youth pastor, start a church from scratch, move overseas as a missionary, start small groups, engage in prayer meetings, disciple people one-on-one, and so much more. It's less about the tasks or life-pleasures filling me but about starting each day with God filling my cup with His joy, and I just pour out His blessing to others.
My current life's job includes mobilizing others into missions through whatever means I can. At the end of the day, I fluff up my pillow laying my head down in rest knowing if I don't wake back up, my day was filled with something special God will use to make an impact in the world I wouldn't believe even if He told me.
If I sat down for coffee with Viktor, we might sit in silence for just a bit, as we sweeten our cups at the bistro table. We'd smile at each other and probably snuff a chuckle knowing our conversation would be more than mere words. We'd be engaged in refining our life's purpose because we wouldn't talk about how we feel, we'd be talking about why we're here.
Funny thing is … when we find we are pursuing our purpose, we find the pursuit pleasurable. We can't reverse the process or life will be meaningless.
So, here it is in very simple terms⏤are we pursuing purpose or pleasure?
The Discipleship Training School at YWAM has helped literally hundreds of thousands discover what their purpose truly is. If this article has spoken to you and you want to make a change, this could be your first big step in the right direction.