To Have Purpose

When I was single, I thought that I would only find purpose if I had a boyfriend. When I was dating, I thought that life would only have meaning if I was married. Now I’m married to an amazing guy, yet I caught myself just the other day wondering if having kids would give me the fulfillment I felt that I was lacking. What does it mean to have purpose?

I felt like I had “arrived” (whatever that means) when my sweet husband and I rented our first home, bought our first couch, and settled into a routine together. But then I wanted to buy a “better” couch, buy a “better” house, and get “better” jobs. I wanted us to get more education and more possessions and more friends and more fun experiences. Where does the cycle end?

What does it mean to have purpose? | www.graceupongracetoday.com

What is My Purpose?

Having grown up attending a Christian school that was affiliated with a Presbyterian church, I learned the Westminster Catechism. I remember reciting lines and lines of it before my fifth grade Bible teacher. Over a decade later, there’s only one line I can still repeat word for word: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (You can find the Westminster Shorter Catechism at Creeds.net.) Therefore, what is our purpose? That we glorify God and that we enjoy God.

John Piper is oft quoted as proclaiming: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I see “satisfaction” as being parallel to “enjoyment.” Likewise, Piper argues that God’s demanding of our praise and adoration “is his highest virtue, and your highest joy.” That is our purpose.

What About…?

The human life does not seem to line up with that, unfortunately. Typical American Christianity argues that family and prosperity are the chief ends of man. One of the two Christian radio stations in my area is touted as being “family-friendly” and consistently relays information directed at parents and children. It is as if singles and couples without (or with grown) children are somehow less Christian. I get the message that the radio station is not for me because I do not have kids.

Is a spouse, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence what Christianity is supposed to look like? We are all too guilty of turning our “American Dream” into a “Christian” goal. Have we forgotten that the Savior of the world did not own a home or get married or have a savings account? What did he do? He glorified God.

A home and a marriage and a savings account and a family are good. But they are not the best. In summing up Philippians chapter 1, John Piper explains: “Christ is glorified in you when he is more precious to you than all that life can give or death can take.”

“Nothing Can Separate Us”

See, “life” can give a child. “Life” can give a house. “Life” can give a spouse and a job and a retirement plan. “Life” can give those vacations you’ve always wanted and the next item in your collection and the car you have dreamed about. We forget that death can also take those things away. What are we left with at the end of the day? Either Christ or an eternity without Him. The Apostle Paul writes that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Not even death. Yet, death can separate us from literally everything else.

“To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain”

Why would I not value Christ Jesus higher than everything else? In life, I have the opportunity to love Him, to serve Him by ministering to others, and to enjoy Him and all that He has made. In death, I have the joy of spending eternity worshiping Him and enjoying His literal company. To the Apostle Paul, life was good and death was also good, because both meant that he got to be with Jesus.

Living in the state of constantly wanting more and better and bigger has left me tired and empty. I realize now that getting a boyfriend did not complete me. Neither did getting married. Neither will having kids. I will only find my purpose when I glorify God, when I make much of Him, when I enjoy Him, and when I am satisfied in Him.

What does it mean to have purpose?

It means finding everything I need in Christ. It means going to Him first when I am sad, stressed, overjoyed, or at peace. It means not self-medicating with the things of this world when only God will satisfy. It means I do not compare my life with my Instagram feed – I compare it to Scripture. It means I do not ask Google what it thinks about my life choices – I ask God. It means I choose to cultivate friendships with people who love God and challenge me.

John Piper writes that when we realize our purpose, we see the treasure that Christ Jesus really is. We want to share him with others because we know His intrinsic value. We want to give freely of our money because obeying God by serving others is more important than our retirement plans. We want to deny our immediate desires in order to do what God immediately desires.

Deny Yourself

What does it mean to have purpose?

Jesus said that if anyone is to follow Him, they must deny themselves. I do not want to deny myself. I do not want to give up what I want. But what if the way to purpose, satisfaction, and joy is by obedience to someone other than my desires? Yes, family is good. Children are good. Homes and cars and savings accounts are good. But these are not my ultimate goals. These are not my ultimate priorities.

Counter-intuitively, my goal is to deny myself my desires in order to serve the God who already owns everything in the universe. The beautiful part of this is that God does supply my desires when I put my joy in Him first and foremost.

See, my goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That will give me purpose, joy, and fulfillment even when the outward circumstances of my life do not look picture perfect.

What practical choices can you make in your life today to find your purpose in Christ?

Lessons from Two Months in the Peach/Peanut State

Sometimes I still can’t believe I live in the peach state (which should, technically, be called the peanut state, but that’s another whole post).

Anyway, I have lived here for almost two and a half months now, and I am settling into my new normal: Work, church, small group, sleep, eat, work… Serving in kids’ Sunday school every other week… Leftovers, date night, laundry… It’s a little repetitive and a whole lot of busyness, but I learning how to settle in well.

I dreamed about being here for several months. However, now that I’m here, I feel a bit disappointed that, somehow,  it isn’t exactly like I dreamed. I’m adjusting to a new living arrangement (with sweet but new roommates), a new work environment (enjoyable but challenging), and a fairly long commute in metro traffic. At the same time, I’m adjusting to a new extended “family,” new friends, a shifting relationship with members of my family, a longer distance to my family, and a much shorter distance to my boyfriend.

We went from living three and half hours from each other to working literally around the corner from the each other. As in, down the hall and around the corner. Imagine that. We see each other single day, at least three times a day, but usually around 87, since he pops in my classroom around five times each planning period, much to my combined delight and annoyance. 🙂

Here’s the kicker: I moved expecting everything to just work out. I moved expecting a seamless, simple transition where life would be ten thousand times better. I moved expecting, in a sense, all my problems to go away.

Here, I still have problems. Different problems for the most part, although I’m sure a few of the same problems crossed over the state line with me. The problems are a little more grown-up, but nonetheless real and emotional and concerning. I may even have fewer “problems,” per say, but there are still things I’m working through and dealing with and adapting to.

I realized today that I moved without giving grace to myself. Or, for that matter, the people who were with me during the process. In those few moments surrounding the move, I packed up a lot of emotions and concerns that I have harbored against others. I withheld grace from myself and from those closest to me because my heart was (and is still) processing those emotions. Instead of trusting God with my loneliness and brokenness and doubt, I wrestled in my heart, and I had nothing left to give myself or those around me.

At my core, I am fragile. And though I like to proclaim my stoic strength as a woman of stability, I am one of those crispy little leaves, withering in the autumn wind, letting go of the tree I called home.

The first chapter of the Gospel of John says that Jesus took on flesh and blood and “made his home among us” (Jn. 1:14, NLT). He came here to the filthy, messed-up earth and pitched his tent and lived with humans. Why? Because we need him.

We are fragile, broken, dirty, messed-up. Yet he comes into our lives. He intersects our paths where we are mostly desperately in need. He comes alongside us and ministers to us in our places of darkness and loneliness.

Picking up and moving for the seventh or eighth time in six years is challenging. No wonder the little girl inside me is lonely. But Jesus came. He came to the Jewish people, in need of a Messiah. And he comes to me, in need of a Messiah, a Savior, a King, a Father.

I realized my fragility because I saw my need. Yesterday, my boyfriend of one year and three months wrapped his arms around me and told me he had me. He told me he would hold me. He told me he was there. That’s the same thing that God does. And you know what? It makes me angry. Forgiveness makes me angry. My boyfriend is rarely mad at me because he has a heart of forgiveness, and it makes me so confused that I end up getting angry. I am used to anger. I am used to frustration. I understand it because I have received it and dished it out. But God doesn’t harbor anger against me. He doesn’t withhold grace because he is frustrated. 

His mercies are new every morning.

When I think I’m solid and stable, like I thought I was during the moving process and as I settled in, I expect everything to be peachy. I expect to do all the things I had planned and be prepared for all the things I had expected to be prepared for. I thought that by now, I would have homemade-from-scratch baked goods for every social event and birthday cards two days early for every birthday and a perfectly organized social calendar and good relationships with everyone possible.

But I’m not solid and stable. My God is, and I rest on his unchanging grace, but I’m not. By two months in, I’m supposed to have a place to live, a job, and a couple ways to get to work. I’m supposed to have met a couple people at church and had dinner with a couple friends. I’m supposed to have a shelf in the fridge and a section in the cabinet and a favorite grocery store. But I’m not supposed to have everything figured out.

I must give myself the grace to still be learning.

I think I approached this stage of my life adventure the same way I approached my summer as a camp counselor or my semester student teaching in Thailand. Both of those were high-energy, short-lived experiences. They required investing a lot upfront for a fast payoff. I also got by with learning less and speeding more.

However, this part of life is going to be one of slower growth and deeper progress. I am not going to survive this entire school year, or the next one, or the next five without pacing myself. Will Reagan sings about climbing the mountain in front of him with his hands wide open, leaning not on his own understanding. This is that kind of mountain. I am investing here. I am investing into relationships. I am investing into this school. I am investing into this curriculum.

I am preparing for a future with not one, but two. And later on down the road, three and four and more. I have to pace myself so that I have more to give then.

One of the best ways to pace yourself is to take Kaley Thompson‘s advice and “fill it to the brim.” Sleep well, eat well, pray well, and study the Word well. Get counseling, take a day of R&R, invest into relationships that pour into you, and depend on God. Running through life without so much as a coffee break will not fill your bucket to the brim.

So, what I have I learned from two months in the peach state? What have I learned from one year and three months of dating?

  • Give grace to yourself and others.
  • Be open to receiving grace. It is God’s love that gives this grace.
  • Pace yourself to avoid spiritual and emotional burnout.
  • And finally, I have so much more to learn.

Isn’t that always true, though? I have been learning grace since 2013, and I still have no idea what it actually means. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe in my weakness and fragility, I can be used by the God of the universe. Maybe God’s light can shine through my brokenness into the lives of others. What a humbling thought.

Not Easy

Well, I’ve come full circle. Again. I have a project due tomorrow for the first year teacher’s program at my school and I am cleaning, organizing, and blogging in a feeble attempt at procrastination. This reminds me of college so much, except that I am listening to rain instead of Mumford.

I’m also coming full circle in a different way. This summer, I will be moving. Again. With a doubt, I am overjoyed to be moving. I landed my dream job with an amazing support system. I have a potential housing situation lined up. I will no longer be living 3.5 hours from my amazing boyfriend… I am so excited about what is to come.

The existence of excitement does not preclude the existence of fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, uncomfortability, insecurity, or difficulty.

In fact, excitement and uncertainty have often gone hand in hand for me. Excitement and exhaustion are two words that describe my overseas travel impeccably – often at the same exact moment. Excitement and fear define my first year of college in a nutshell.

So here I am, putting on my big girl panties and moving to another state. For a boy. For a job. For a better living situation.

I know, without a doubt, that this is what God has for me. I know that it is good. It know that it is His plan. I know this because it has worked out perfectly in only the way that He can work things out. I know this because the guy who lives there loves me with safe, sacrificial, challenging love that blows my mind. I know this because God has proven himself again and again. I know that it is God’s plan for me to move to this new state and city and community.

Regardless, I am still afraid. I am still tired, uncertain, uncomfortable, insecure, and preparing to face difficulty. “Being in God’s will” (whatever that means) does not mean that everything is peachy. Following God does not make your problems disappear.

This morning in church, my pastor explained that with good couples, one partner has strengths where the other has weaknesses. The opposite is true as well. In moments of alignment, they complement each other. In moments of misalignment, they complain: “We’re so different from each other! Why are we even dating/engaged/married?!?” But that’s just what makes couples work. We’re supposed to be different from our partners. They complement us.

If we take difficulty (like the example of the complaining couple) to mean that we’re in the wrong place or God is punishing us or we should leave, we’re understanding difficulty inappropriately. Sometimes we are in the “wrong” place, and God makes that clear to us while calling us to a new place. But we should not run away from difficult situations. We should work through them, only leaving if proven necessary. That’s why we should not break up relationships or get divorced over difficulties. We should work through them and figure out the real issues.


One reason I am afraid is that I don’t do “new” very well. I am a hardcore introvert who loves dependability. That’s one reason it’s hard to be around a lot of people. Other people often do things that are unexpected, and that leaves a lot of newness and inconsistency to deal with in a group setting.

However, I have realized that I need people. Shocking, I know.

I was reading an article from Donald Miller that discussed introversion and extroversion. One person commented: “…it takes me several days of complete solitude to recover [after a big social engagement]. I used to apologize for it, but now I just plan for it.” I think that summarizes the introvert’s needs perfectly. It would be wrong of me to constantly apologize for the weird things I do because I’m so introverted. However, it would also be wrong of me to pretend I didn’t have a need for “recharge” time. Like the commenter said, I should plan for those things and give myself grace to work through them.

It is great to acknowledge and utilize an understanding of personal traits like introversion and extroversion, but we cannot let the labels dictate our lives. Introverts cannot eliminate community time any more than extroverts can eliminate solitude time. It’s necessary to have experiences that shape and stretch us, and both community and solitude are essential for spiritual growth. My old youth pastor used to tell me that ministry (and a lot of life) is 80% what you want to do and 20% what you don’t want to do.

As I think about moving and making new friends, developing relationships, seeking mentors, exploring a new city, and learning a new job, I know there will be difficulty. I know that a lot of the tasks I must accomplish as I move are challenging for someone who is 98% introverted like me. But life is not about “easy.” It’s about becoming more like Christ, which is anything but easy.

I’m ready for it. I know I will feel afraid but I also know that God is with me. I know I will feel insecure, but I also know that he has brought me here. I know I will face difficulty, but I also know that this is where he wants me. I’m ready for this new adventure because I am taking my adventures one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.