The Key to a Purposeful Life
The Key to a Purposeful Life
On a recent Sunday night, I sat on the floor at church, with my 3-year-old climbing in and out of my lap. As an introduction to a teaching series on fear, we had broken into small groups to answer the question: "What things are people your age most afraid of?"
I spoke of the maternal fears I share with all my 30-something mom friends: injury, illness, death, sadness for our children. The response of the other two group members surprised me, if only for their candor. Both 20-somethings in full-time Christian ministry, they were afraid of "getting it wrong" in the next decade—of wasting the years, making wrong decisions, and having to backpedal and start over. One guy put it this way: "I don't want to set myself up for a midlife crisis, where I say, 'What have I done with my life so far?'"
It is a fear I know well, having spent my 20s feeling much the same way. The plethora of choices—vocational, relational, and geographical—and the silence of my culture about its expectations often left me feeling paralyzed. In the words of songwriter David Wilcox, "I was dead with deciding—afraid to choose. I was mourning the loss of the choices I'd lose." Several publications at the time, including a book entitled Quarterlife Crisis, made it clear that I was not alone.
On the other side of that decade, I find myself among a crowd with a different fear—or perhaps the same fear with a different face. That same Sunday night, another friend, in his late 30s, talked about the frightening realization that all his hopes and goals for life would not be met. This particular friend has 2-year-old twins, one of whom has serious medical problems; his sweet little life has required his parents' energies in ways they never expected. Whether because of the limitations of time or circumstance, many things we want to do in our lives, and with our lives for God's kingdom, are often beyond our grasp. Life doesn't unfold the way we expect.
While I hear 20-somethings asking, "What if my life doesn't go anywhere?" I hear my peers sighing, "My life isn't going where I thought it would go." Somewhere along the line, we feel, things have gone off track.
In just the past month, I have heard several Christians articulate surprise at the turns their lives have taken: "I never thought adultery would happen to me," "I never could have imagined myself as a widow," "I don't want to be the mother of a deceased daughter." Each deviation from our expectations of "normalcy" can leave us confused and recalibrating. How do we cope with the suspense of life in such an unpredictable world? How do we deal with the fear that our lives will be disappointing—to us or to God?
'Joined to The Lord'
The good news from the Scriptures is this: No follower of Jesus is an isolated entity, living out a solitary, potentially tragic plot line. The life story of a disciple is inextricably linked with the life story of Jesus. Each of us is connected to Jesus as a branch is connected to the vine, a body part is connected to the head, or a wife is connected to her husband (John 15; Eph. 4:15-16; Eph. 5:31-32). In fact, the truth gets even more shocking: As the Father is in Jesus, and he is in the Father, so are we "in" Christ, and he in us (John 17:20-26). In other words, in the same way that the Father and the Son are connected to one another, so we are connected with the Son by the work of his Spirit. We are "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor. 6:17, ESV).