When I as a teenager I wanted to be an architect. My parents supported this and they bought me a drafting table and watched as I drew day and night. I was creating plans for houses and schools, playgrounds and zoos. Then after a few years I realized I no longer wanted to be an architect because I stopped enjoying straight lines. 🙂
For a long time after that I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I went to college to study music but I realized that it was something I enjoyed doing not something I wanted to do for a profession. But during my time of discernment I realized that I was surrounded by students who declared specific majors – but many of us were unsure what we wanted to do with our lives.
Even after we finished school, got a job, and started making money many of us changed not only jobs but careers a few times. For example, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my life about a dozen times between the time I graduated high school at 18 and decided to go to seminary at 26.
I remember the moment that I knew God was calling me into ministry. I was sitting on the beach next to a campfire on Lake Ossipee, I was playing my guitar, singing and praying. I wanted to hear God’s voice because I felt lost and alone. I began to hear God’s voice telling me to go to seminary to be a pastor, it is then that I started to find true meaning in my life.
As I talk with people near and far about their life and profession I am asked the same question again and again. “How do I figure out what to do with my life?” and “What is God calling me to do?”
I often have conversations and receive emails from people in their 20s to 50s who have no idea what they want to do “when they grow up.”
Part of the problem is that we want to know the meaning of life. We want to know what God has created us for and what God is calling us do to. God has blessed us with gifts and we are called to use them to benefit the world.
There are five questions we can ask to ultimately understand the meaning of life.
- What are you willing to give up to get what you want? In order to move forward we may have to make sacrifices. There may be certain things that we love, but they are holding us back from what we need to accomplish in life, to make our dreams come true. So the question becomes: What struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate to make your dreams come true? The short term sacrifices will only help us achieve to our full long term potential.
- What tugs at your heart? We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Many times the social pressures of during our teenage years and then the responsibilities as an adult forces us to put down our passions. During seminary I spent my time on my studies, working, and caring for my family. I had little time for my music anymore, so I stopped. After awhile I realized that I missed playing my guitar and my baritone horn. I knew that I needed to somehow make that right in order to be made whole again.
- What do you think about all the time? We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in doing something that we love we realize that hours have passed and we need to bring ourselves back to reality. I once read that Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget. There are certain things that we think about all the time, or things that we do so passionately we lose track of time. What is that for you?
- How are you going to establish world peace? You don’t have to enter a beauty contest to answer this question. Everyday we read about all the problems in the world. If I joined all the causes my friends on Facebook invite me too, I could make that my full time job! But to find meaning in your life find a problem in the world that you care about and start solving it. You are not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can make a difference.
- What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? I have been to many funerals in my life. Most of them as a pastor. Part of my job is to sit down with the family and listen to stories. This is one of my favorite parts of the funeral experience. Many times the grief goes away as families and friends remember their loved one. When you think about this time, the stories told about you when you are gone are people going to remember someone whose life has purpose and direction? Are they going to talk about someone who loved life and lived everyday making the most of the gifts God has blessed them with?
Discovering meaning in your life is found when you dedicated yourself to one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. Once you find them then you take actions towards fulfilling your calling that comes from God.