Well, I have had a lightbulb moment of colossal proportion…at least for me! I think as women in this world of ladder-climbing and achievement, that we often feel pressed to make our mark or make a significant contribution in some “important” way. I have battled an inner struggle for years, especially as my children grew older and less dependent, that nagged at me to do something bigger. Yet, for as long as I can remember, the only occupation I really ever wanted was that of wife and mother…even all through college. Certainly, I prepared myself for jobs that interested me during those years, and even did try my hand at a couple later on when the inner struggle won out, but it was never with satisfaction and my longing was always to return home.

These last couple of years, as I’ve been preparing to empty my nest, the old struggle has reared its ugly head again…nagging, nagging. “What now?” it asks. “The kids aren’t going to be home…what will your contribution be?” As Christians, I know that we all wonder if we’re missing our purpose. “Why was I, specifically, created?” “Do You have a job for me, God?” “What if I miss it?” Let me get to my lightbulb moment.

It started in church this last weekend, when our Pastor was talking about Jesus being baptized. He pointed out that when Jesus came up out of the water, God said, “This is My Son, in Him I am well pleased.” We all know that part. What I’d never thought about was that God said this about Jesus BEFORE He ever did anything publicly. He had YET to make His mark. No miracles performed, no impressive speaking engagements, no small group leading. He’d just been His Son for 30 years. And yet, the God of the universe was well-pleased. It started me thinking about my own kids. Before I got pregnant, Kevin and I never said anything like “let’s have a child so that they can possibly find a cure for cancer and save a lot of lives.” In fact, we wanted a baby that was an extention of us, that we could love and nurture and delight in and that would love us back. That’s it. Finis. That child wouldn’t ever have to do anything more than just “be”, to have our complete devotion. “This is our child, in whom we are well-pleased.” Hmmmm…

Then, the next day I started reading a book that I’ve had for about a year now, but never read. It’s called Designing a Woman’s Life by Judith Couchman. Incredibly, she was talking about our purpose as Christian women and echoed the above sentiment by likening us to an exquisite piece of art. A piece of art doesn’t have to do anything…it’s more about form over function; which she says is how God values us. Now, before you think “wow, I can just sit around and do nothing and its okay!” (and if you did, God wouldn’t value you any less), God did create us for a purpose…first and foremost to glorify Him. And certainly, He has tasks for us to complete when we take time to consult Him about it. But, a task master He is not. He doesn’t intend for us to drive ourselves to distraction doing, doing, doing for the Kingdom. This is the really big A-HA part of the story.

Couchman suggests that our purpose is 3-fold: 1) To know God in an intimate way 2) To make the world a better place – interaction with His creation, particularly humans 3) Exercising our gifts to do God’s work in the world. I think this is where we get into trouble. We put all our energy into number 3…exercising our gifts in the name of doing God’s work, but really doing it for the world’s approval, to feel needed and purposeful and that we made a difference. God wants to enjoy us and for us to know and enjoy Him FIRST. That’s most important to Him. He then wants us to enjoy and relate with one another. THEN, He wants us to do His work; it’s the least important thing. He’d rather you get to know Him over everything else. If that wasn’t a big enough A-HA, wait until you hear this.

If we can manage to get the purpose priority system in place, we will find ourselves longing to change the world and do good work for the kingdom. If it’s balanced, this work will not overwhelm us with busyness but will fill us with satisfaction. If you’re worried that doing “important work for God” might entail working with a tribe of natives in the jungle, and you really hate being outside (or worse – snakes!) – DON’T! God intends for those in whom He’s placed a heart for missions to take care of that. In fact, instead of a specific job that will define your purpose in the world, God wants us to look at this in a broader spectrum. What if we viewed our purpose with a mission-statement point of view? For instance, I love sharing what I’m learning in hopes of encouraging others and I love to nurture. I’ve seen this to be true all through my life in a myriad of ways. Amazingly, a lot of my talents are things that support this, like listening, teaching and writing, or hospitality, cooking and creating a warm home. In reading this book, it dawned on me that if I have a mission statement-view to my purpose, it would go something like “I exist to nurture others and inspire them to grow in God”, instead of the more specific “I exist to be a wife and mother.” Certainly the latter is a noble profession for which nothing I would trade. But if I make this my WHOLE purpose, what happens when the kids move away or, worse, if I lose my spouse? In this new way of thinking, whatever tasks that the Lord might have for me would fall under this broader purpose and could change in different seasons of life; they could be performed in a variety of ways according to my gifts. WOW. How amazing. How freeing. I’m in God’s will when I follow His guidance and prompting under this “purpose umbrella”. And it all can be done using the gifts that I was given in the womb…the gifts He chose specifically for me…work, no matter what it looks like or when it is offered, that will bring me great joy and satisfaction.

What’s your purpose in life? Do you exist to be a high powered executive or do you exist to lead and motivate others to know God? Do you exist to be an admin or do you exist to encourage and support and serve? Certainly, both of these jobs fall under the broader purpose, but by themselves they are very limiting. Operating under the broader term opens up all kinds of possibilities throughout the course of your life and helps you understand the direction that God pointed your heart before you drew breath.

First and foremost, BE STILL AND KNOW GOD. Then start looking at your gifts, your dreams and your desires and form a mission statement…discover your purpose!