“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
I hate clutter. I love organization. Seriously, I used to love to watch shows like Mission Organization. One of my favorite stores is The Container Store where their motto is “contain yourself.” When asked my design style, I say “organized.” I love lists and am a note-taking freak (digitally of course, no more paper clutter please). Just ask anyone that knows me, they will attest to this very “nerdy” quality in me! So, when we I became stressed with all the business of my life, I thought I just needed to organize my time and resources better. Forget that in the past two years we have moved to another state to plant a church, I started homeschooling our kids, gave birth to our fourth child and began a women’s ministry! It couldn’t be anything that I was doing, I just needed to do it better. . . . Or so I thought.
Many years ago, I heard a story about a lighthouse keeper with a similar problem . . .
There is an old story about a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline. Once a month he would receive a new supply of oil to keep the light burning so that ships could safely sail near the rocky coast. One night, though, a woman from a nearby village came and begged him for some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another man needed to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and grant the requests of all. Toward the end of the month, he noticed his supply of oil was dangerously low. Soon it was gone, and one night on the light on the lighthouse went out. As a result, that evening several ships were wrecked and countless lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very apologetic. He told them he was just trying to be helpful with the oil. Their reply to his excuses, however, was simple and to the point: “You were given oil for one purpose, and one purpose only – to keep that light burning!”
Emory White, Rethinking the Church (Baker Books, 1997), 27-28.*
“For we are his worskmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
The details are different, but the problem is the same. We were all created with purpose. Even I was created with purpose. David reminds us in Psalm 139 that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Yet, sometimes, I think I find myself drifting away from that purpose. So many good, useful, valuable things I can be doing with my time, and there are so many fun, purposeless things I’m drawn to do. But what should I be doing? In that question lies my dilemma. I don’t need to be more organized or to find more hours in the day, but I do need to have a purposeful heart.
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Romans 12: 6-8
Do you struggle with your purpose? I know, I do. There are so many places I feel needed, so many things I feel are my responsibility. Where do I say no? When to say yes? I believe my purpose changes over the years–as I grow in my relationship with Christ, develop my talents, resources and abilities, and as my stage in life changes. So which purpose should I be currently fulfilling? Which one is the most important? Is it my job as a teacher to my children? Or is it my ministry to the ladies in my community? Is it the little things I do around the house? Or is it being a loving support to my husband that is my top priority? I have a lot of questions right now but not a lot of answers.
Maybe your struggle isn’t separating that one important purpose out from the many, but maybe your struggle is finding a purpose at all. Don’t worry, God didn’t forget about you! No matter who you are or where you have been, your life has purpose! I believe with all my heart that my elderly friend who deals with a severe mental disorder was created by God with a special and unique purpose. She has already taught our family so much! If you are reading this today, you can rest assured that you, too, were created with purpose. Before you were even born, God had a plan for your life. Look at the scripture again from Romans. Is there a particular trait that jumps out at you? This list is by no means exhaustive; there are countless other scriptures pointing to unique character traits that God gives us. Sometimes, I think we are the worst at seeing our best. Maybe you need to go to a trusted friend, mentor or pastor and ask them what strengths they see in you. What talents and abilities can you be developing today to fulfill God’s purpose for you?
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
I love this promise that God gives us through the prophet Jeremiah! It is a promise that reminds me, that when I seek Him and His will for my life, I will find it – when I seek with my whole heart! My life might not just have one purpose right now, or maybe I am in the process of changing once again. I’m thankful for the passions God has given me and the people He has placed in my life to serve. One thing I do want to make sure of though is that I don’t run out of “oil” for my true purpose(s). So “many “good” things can distract me and take my time, energy and focus away from where it should be given. Only God can give me my measure of oil (strength and ability for my purpose) and direct my steps to His calling on my life.
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”
Romans 12:11 NLT
You can be doing something. In whatever stage of life, regardless of your abundant or limited resources, you can serve the Lord! At home, at work, at school, even in the grocery store and at the ballgame, you can serve Him in some capacity. In the mundane and in the extravagant, God is calling us to be a piece in the masterpiece He is creating. No thing is too small. If the He met you at the door to today to check on your progress, what would he find? Have you been burning the oil in your lighthouse? Let me leave you with this thought today. It is one of my favorite quotes from Helen Keller:
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do [the] something that I can do.”