One of my goals for 2020 was to run 1000 km. For those of you not on the metric system that is 620 miles. It is about my only goal this year that has not required quite a bit of retooling. I started running, not because I am a stellar athlete, but because of RunDisney races. I am a bit of a Disney nerd and in Disney races, you don’t have to be the fastest. Instead they give you shiny Disney medals just for finishing your race. And while you don’t have to be speedy, you do have to train to run Disney races. The training has led to some powerful reminders for me as living out our faith as Christians is often compared to training for a race in Scripture.
In Acts 20:24 Paul states, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.”
Our race is individual. You have a unique calling. You are not an accident. But how can you know which race, which purpose, is yours?
First, let us acknowledge that knowing your purpose does not mean you know all the answers. I think in Christian circles we take this idea of our “purpose” and create this aura around it and label it a “calling” and along with this comes all sorts of expectations. We expect that we will all have a moment where we are anointed like King David or picked from obscurity like the disciples. While some may have had these moments, I have never had God speak to me in a dream. For me, and I would guess the majority of people of faith, living out our calling is found in prayerfully taking the next steps toward our goals and dreams, towards addressing the burdens God has placed on our hearts. God has woven our purpose, and thus our calling into our unique, individual wiring, no burning bush moment required.
I feel as if young people, high schoolers and college-aged folks, have been especially burdened with this pressure. Because of your age and the crossroads of life you are at you are being bombarded with questions that make you feel like you need to plan out the rest of your life RIGHT NOW. That you need to find the perfect school and the perfect major so you can live your perfect adult life. But let me tell you a secret. There are no perfect schools. For the vast majority of you in your future careers, where you went to college will not matter. The name of the college or technical school on your diploma is far less significant than the fact that you showed the perseverance to get the diploma or certification in the first place. The perfect college is the one that is the perfect fit for you; the place that God has called you to be. Additionally, what your major is will also not matter. There are some exceptions such as nursing and auto-repair but the vast majority of employers won’t care about your major.
In short: You don’t have to have it all figured out. And adults, neither do you.
Now you might be thinking, “That’s all nice, but I still don’t know what my life’s purpose is.” From a practical standpoint, let’s break down this idea a bit further. If you consider yourself a Christ follower, your general purpose is simply stated, love God and love people. Our specific purpose is found in the unique way you can love people. To identify that, take note of what in this world piques your curiosity and what doesn’t sit well with you.
Maybe you have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s this huge patch of plastic and garbage just floating in the Pacific Ocean. When Boyan Slat at age 17 first heard of the Garbage Patch he knew something must be done about it. But he didn’t leave it there. Now at 26 years old, he is the CEO of the non-profit that has the best chance of coming up with a solution to this very serious and very large problem. And while I don’t know Boyan or all of his story, I do know that he did two things that helped him define his purpose that we can learn from.
- First, he knew what problem bothered him the most.
- Second, he focused on what could be done and not what couldn’t.
So if you are unsure of the calling and purpose God has on your life, no matter what your age, ask yourself these questions. What bothers me the most? What burdens my heart? What can I do about it? It will be tempting to start thinking about all the parts of the problem you can’t fix or do anything about. Instead focus on what you can do; that’s where the path to your purpose in this season begins.
By the way, sometimes your purpose is for a season. Some of the most interesting folks I know and admire have watched their purpose evolve by simply taking the next right step as God has opened doors in their lives. Ask any mature believer you know. They are likely to have a story of God leading them down one path towards one goal only to discover that what they thought was the target wasn’t the goal at all. In my life, I have often found that for God to get me where He wants me, He has to aim me at a target I know and could see, to set me up for the real goal, the target I didn’t even yet knew existed.
Stories of God calling people to paths they did not expect are found all over Scripture. I highly doubt that as Miriam hid in the bushes watching her brother Moses float down a river that she had any idea that Moses would be found by the princess of Egypt. And once he was, I doubt that she thought such a discovery would result in her baby brother leading an exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
You are allowed to course correct, do a complete 180, or go in a different direction. You can change your college, your career, your path. You see, when you are training to run the race God has set out before you, changes in your path are part of the journey. Rather than adjustments being indicators of failure they are instead more likely indicators of a heart tuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As we look towards the promise of a new year, it’s important we know the race God is calling us to in this season of our life. If you are unsure of what that is, try taking the next steps towards the goals, dreams and passions He has placed on your heart in this season. In doing so God just might reveal a dream and target bigger than you ever hoped for or imagined.
Speaker /Teacher / Facilitator / Coach