What happens to your purpose when you don’t have the space to live it out? What happens when you’re considered a non-essential part of the world’s infrastructure? It’s no secret that most of us derive our identity from what we do, so during these times, when we may be unable to “do”, how and where do we maintain purpose?
Living fully seems difficult these days during the restrictions put upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe that whether you have been called to a season of rest, or action, both need to have a sense of purpose in order to help you get through your days in healthy ways.
MEANING & MOTIVATION
I’ve noticed, quite inconveniently, that it’s the small, daily purposes that are now driving my days instead of my greater life vision. These small purposes have actually been gift bearers of meaning and motivation during a season where my greater purpose is unable to lead the way. They are companion purposes that share the foundation of love, and trail behind my primary purpose of being a child of God.
My mother-in-law, Ruth, is 94 years old and was the first to reveal the significance of small purposes to me. Daily she’ll walk and feed the dog, empty the dishwasher, do laundry, read, and watch the news. I look at her day and think I’d go crazy with boredom, but she derives comfort and purpose from these tiny tasks and respites. Comparatively her “doing” may seem small, but these small efforts impact my life in beneficial ways.
On the other hand, my husband, Scott, get’s the trophy for To-Do List Over Achiever! He has taken small purposes to new heights during our “Stay At Home” conditions. He has painted interior and exterior doors and trim, fixed a cabinet I botched, sealed the driveway, replaced our mailbox, hung a picture gallery and other wall décor, installed a new showerhead and two faucets, mulched, planted, pruned, raised curtain rods, repaired and repainted the porch, hung a bird house and bee traps, replaced a patio screen door (that I walked through), assembled two etageres, sold a ton of memorabilia online, extended and repaired our watering system in the yard, and had a real estate closing! He’s been busy with many small purposes that have made a difference, and that have helped him shape his days. Once again, I find myself a lucky recipient.
In all honesty, you will find me in the middle – slugging through history with greater expectations on myself of doing and resting than God would ever place on me. Early on I anticipated all the content I would create during this time, but it’s been challenging because creating without inspiration doesn’t produce anything good! So, while I have been waiting on inspiration (which pops in and out), I’ve struggled. This struggle has exposed the trouble that my expectations have created, and now I see how simple, small purposes are all that God is calling me to at this time.
DOING vs. OVER-DOING
Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of bored to busy, you can choose purpose with a balance of doing and being. This, my friends, is hard won wisdom from someone who is a doer at heart and can over-do with the best of them. In the midst of determining what this balance looks like I’ve realized how I’ve confused “doing” with “over-doing”; creating a lopsided, non-favorable view of action. But now, I’ve discovered that “doing”, in right measure, does me good.
For all the spiritual work of resting and meditation I’ve been focusing on this past year, I’ve realized that I need “doing”, in healthy doses, to help authenticate my God-given purpose and keep me in step with the Holy Spirit. This is knowledge beyond my head, (because we all know about balance), this is a felt affirmation of heart, soul and mind, which has been a powerful spiritual lesson.
I especially see its value when I think of God. Our God is a God of action – there’s an entire book of the Bible named after that! He is creator, sustainer, and the God of both micro and macro purposes. The Bible is full of small gestures that Jesus turned into great, miraculous acts. The Cross was the ultimate purpose, but love was the foundational principal, and boy how Jesus loved in both big and small ways!
CHARACTER FORGED IN THE MUNDANE
Interestingly, I believe it’s the small purposes that, when strung together, impacts us and our world the most. It’s the regular, mundane parts of our life that build our character and produce fruit. Parenthood embodied the biggest smallest purposes of my life. Shaping the lives of children, caring for them and guiding them, were my most mundane days of all; especially when they were little. But when I stitch together the dinners, baths, book reading and laundry, I can see the greater purpose of the work God did in me.
I don’t know what your small purposes are, but I find that when each day looks the same, I need to remember that it’s in the small moments, the small purposes, that I can find motivation and meaning. We build our character one day at a time and each day contributes to who we are becoming in Christ. Today, no matter your circumstances, you can show off Christ in your own small way.
This has been most evident during my neighborhood walks where I’ve seen a young lady drawing chalk art on the sidewalk with positive and instructive messages. I pass by a home with a simple note taped to their front door that thanks their delivery people for their services. And then there’s the porch that proudly sports a hand-crafted board which celebrates the healthcare heroes on the front lines. In a season of emotional contagion, positivity, encouragement and gratitude (all holy aspects of Christ), are the best thing to spread, and small purposes are a wonderful way to do so.
Small purposes can keep us on track while impacting others in deep ways. So, when you’re feeling like the monotony is clamoring over you, or you’re busy beyond measure, lean into prayer and see where God directs you. Reach out, or reach within, and love as best as you can in responsible ways.
We won’t be hunkered down forever, and when I look back at this time, I want to see that I weathered it well, that my small purposes shared love and kept me sane and faithful. I want to know that I didn’t succumb to panic, or the opposite, carelessness. I don’t want to regret complaining and useless striving, because I’ve done that before. I want to look back and see notable moments with God and string them together in a wonderful account of His love. In the words of a friend, “I want to be found faithful.”
When solitude feels like captivity, when loneliness descends (even in a house full of people), or when the minutes of our days are strung together with Zoom calls, we can look for the small purposes and acknowledge their value; because they bring incredible stability.
Small purposes are what shape our character, they give us hope, and they help us persevere. The rhythms of our small purposes can give us rest, restoration, connection and creation. It’s these rhythms that can endure beyond COVID-19, as long as we’re careful not to return to our harried, unbalanced pace of “over-doing”.
It’s with caution that I look to the future, because old habits can resurface and usher in the return of counterfeit values. So, my prayer is that when we’re able to fully “do” again, that we not “over-do”. That a rest/action balance drives both our big and small purposes and leads us toward healthy rhythms which keep us spiritually aligned with God, and fueled for the purpose He has set before each of us.
EMBRACE SMALL PURPOSES
In the meantime, find and embrace small, loving purposes because they contribute to who you are becoming in Christ. Allow them to guide your days, fill your heart, and shape your character. When you do, you will not be the only one who is blessed. I hope that when you look back over this time you too will see notable moments with God strung together in a wonderful account of His love for you.
Big or small, purpose matters! As a Christian Life Coach, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you’d like to explore this further, then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!
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