If you were alive and near any kind of media in 2002, you heard about, studied, read, listened to sermons on … Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life.’
I’m not about to get into the pros and cons of his book – so, don’t bother trying to explain whatever side you might be on with it. That’s not what this is about.
But it was interesting to wrap words around why we even bother to be on this earth. And while I believe it is important to understand that we each have a purpose, I think that our secular purpose transforms as we live out our lives. Our spiritual purpose? That’s pretty much set in stone. You know … the cornerstone.
I’ve spent a lifetime knowing that I had a purpose. Why else would I have survived childhood and youth? There had to be a reason.
When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. In essence, the muscle that regulated my heartbeat would spasm, sending it off into out of control rhythm – sometimes approaching 220 beats per minute or greater. There was no trigger I could watch for in order to avoid it – my heart would spasm no matter what I did. I could be sitting still reading and it would take off, on the playground, practicing the piano, even sleeping. It didn’t matter. Our doctor taught me several techniques to bring it back into rhythm and after a particularly scary event when I ended up at University Hospital in Iowa City, I was on regular doses of digitalis.
The night I went to the hospital, no one and nothing seemed to be able to bring my heart back into normal rhythm. The worst pain I’d ever experienced to that point was when they jammed that needle filled with digitalis into my right thigh. My mind still remembers the intensity (and longevity) of that pain. The doctor told my parents that if I lived through the night, I would have such drastic heart damage I’d not be able to live a normal life.
The two of them sat by my bed all night long, praying.
I left the hospital with no heart damage and we were told that I would outgrow the worst of the condition, though it would continue to haunt me the rest of my life. I stopped taking digitalis after my sixth grade year and though my heart will race with no reason a few times a year, it’s something I can easily bring under control if I settle down and find peace and quiet.
Ten years later I was with my senior class on our trip to St. Louis. We’d chartered a bus and were off for a weekend of crazy fun. As we drove into the city, we laughed and chattered. The class sponsor was at the front of the bus and he called my name, needing to ask me a question.
I leaned forward to respond and all of a sudden, his face went pale and his eyes grew immense. My friend in the seat next to me yelped and grabbed my arm. A three inch bolt with the nut threaded onto it had flown in the window, ripped the headpiece of my seat, ricocheted (and cracked) a window across the aisle before falling to the floor. Had I not leaned forward, the hole would have been in my forehead.
Those two singular incidents brought my life into focus. Now … I didn’t try to do anything about it. God and I had long since worked out a plan. I’d let him direct me and not try to get too busy about bossing him. If he needed me to re-direct, it was his job to let me know. I wasn’t going to try to guess.
So I went about living my life. But every day I knew that my life had purpose. I wasn’t sure if I was fulfilling it – in fact, many times I’m pretty sure I was absolutely not. I still don’t know if I’ve done what I was put on earth to do, but I’m having fun moving forward.
It doesn’t really matter whether I think I’m fulfilling my purpose or not. That isn’t what my life is about. I don’t need to be reassured … because that doesn’t rest in any earthly words or actions.
You might want to tell me that writing the Bellingwood books is God’s purpose for me – and I’m really cool with that. He and I went through a lot to get me to the point where I could do it. Some of it good, some of it not great and some of it was awful. The not great and the awful were my fault. Sometimes I think I know best. As smart and wise as I am, I spend a lot of time being wrong.
But I also believe that long before I wrote that first book, I was fulfilling my purpose. I was given life in September of 1959, but over and over during these last (ahem, cough) years, I am constantly reminded that not only in big ways, but very little itsy bitsy ways, I have a reason for being here. Even if it is something as seemingly inconsequential as opening my door to a tiny kitten or smiling at a check out clerk.
Do you have a clear understanding of how important you are to the world? Because I have to tell you … you are very important to me. And if you need to know the truth of that in a more personal way, send me an email. I might not know you well and I absolutely don’t know all that is going on in your life, but I know how terrific you are, just because you’re here.
What’s your story? How have you known or learned how important you are?