We have just been through a soul-searching time during covid. Many have had extended times of thinking, reflecting, wondering about life and the world and how they interact together. Even if you have been busy throughout the COVID season, with all that has been happening you can’t help questioning and pondering the state of the world and our role in it.
After a time like this, it’s an ideal moment to ask, who am I? What are my desires? Have they changed? Am I still pursuing a God-given passion? Have the past year’s challenges brought about any changes in my thinking, my sense of identity and my calling?
Based on his own experience, Ignatius believed that when we go beyond all the outward appearances of our lives and beyond all the various roles we play, we will discover our deepest desires, which coincide with God’s hopes for us, in a way that parents have hopes for their child.
Many people have written about the importance of purpose. Here are a few famous quotes – how do you relate?
• “It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.” ―Winston S. Churchill
• “The person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” ―Thomas Carlyle
• “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” ―John F. Kennedy
• “True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ―Helen Keller
• “The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” ―Charles Dickens
• “Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.” ―John D. Rockefeller
• “Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are ultimately to be at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be.” ―Abraham Maslow
• “Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” ―Jalaluddin Rumi
• “The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.” ―Terry Orlick
Many people – especially guys – presume that meaning in life must come from their job, vocation, or mission but, while one’s career can provide meaning, it is just a part. Meaning and purpose can be found in simple things that add to your life and the lives of others. We don’t have to be engaged in some huge altruistic activity of ‘saving the planet.’
A high percentage of people report that a lack of meaning or purpose is a major stressor in their lives. We see a huge rise in workshops and retreats on well-being and finding your identity and direction. The fact is that we all need to have a reason to wake up in the morning and get out of bed.
We can find ourselves asking questions about our purpose when ending a chapter or season of life. We all go through transitions and changes. The change may involve a move to another home or country like myself, or your children leaving home, change of job or vocation, the passing away of a parent that you have been caring for or physical and/or emotional limitations that have affected your activities or rhythm. In these circumstances it can be helpful to take some time to listen to the Lord and to our emotions to see what they are telling us. Our emotions are the seat of our passion, desires and energy.
Back in 1993 I sensed a calling to develop leaders. I was leading YWAM Scotland at the time and so I poured myself into mentoring base and team leaders to see the work of YWAM grow. I also wanted to see training courses develop, so having experienced a seven-week course by Floyd McClung (the only course he led with this shape), I started a six-week course with Barry Austin and some other key staff I was connected with. The training created a yearly rhythm for me, while my own personal roles in leadership development changed. I have been running leadership courses since then, working with young emerging leaders and more senior leaders. I am on a journey to continue to ‘live, love and lead like Jesus and seek to encourage others on the road with me.’ I feel very privileged to have been in a mission that has helped to keep me on track with a sense of a lifelong calling. I am also blessed by having a strong sense of ambition and desire to push ahead to use the gifts and skills that I have been given. The challenge is always being aware of the difference between my selfish ambition and desires and that which is born out of being a follower of Jesus.
Richard Rohr talks about the two halves of life. The first involves finding out who we are in terms of our gifts and skills, climbing the ladder of responsibility, making a name for ourselves and hitting some of those life goals. The second half is about moving from success (if we have had some) to significance. It’s more about others and less about self. It’s about investing in others, supporting, affirming, and blessing others. The second half is about enjoying life and every moment no matter what life throws at us. The challenge that Rohr lays before us is that he believes we can’t get there without suffering!
In the second half of life, you know the cost of ministry and you step up not because it brings fulfilment to you but because you are part of a community that needs help. You need help from them and they from you.
I have never been sicker than during March/April of 2020 when I contracted covid. However, this season shaped me and moved me perhaps like no other. As I spent time reading, journaling and considering life in lockdown, my passion for developing leaders was brought to the surface with even greater focus and, as a result, online training was born. From my upstairs spare bedroom, I was able to touch leaders from the nations.
Do you feel the need of finding a fresh passion? Sometimes we can experience feelings of boredom, dissatisfaction, emptiness, unfulfillment in our relationships and work and somehow being stuck. As seasons change, our identity roles may shift, leaving us with these feelings of confusion and being a little lost. This is where a time of reflection and asking deep questions about our future is vital.
Restoring a sense of direction may involve taking up an old passion that has been pushed out due to a lack of time or motivation. It could be adding a fresh dimension to a passion that has always been with you. Or it may be discovering something entirely new to you that has been hiding in the shadows. Whatever the situation, we have a need to re-evaluate our passions on a regular basis.
Ignatius coined a phrase, ‘disordered desires’ and it’s worth mentioning here as we consider our future and moving towards our deep desires. Along our journey, we will experience many temptations that will cause us to veer off track. Those desires can be good but not the best for us. They can be desires that don’t bring fulfillment or real pleasure. They can be self-gratifying and not really connected to our long-term future. Disordered desires are things like pride, greed, fear, perfectionism, an appetite for affirmation through likes on social media, keeping up with the Jones’s, a wrong sense of competition, etc, etc. Let’s evaluate our desires – are they the kind of desires that create the gold, silver and precious stones of 1 Corinthians 3, or do they add up to wood, hay and straw?
Father God made us to be like him, to have desires that will make this world a better place and, in the process, make us be the best version of ourselves. Let’s allow the master potter to shape us and make us fit for good purposes.
Until next month,