Purpose. Destiny. Calling.
These words have intrigued me for as long as I can remember. They’re mystical. They’re mysterious. They’re also maddening!
Whenever I ponder these terms (I’ve personally dubbed them “PDC” for short) they have just one of two effects:
- I feel awesome.
- I feel like crap.
The problem with obsessing over purpose, destiny, and calling:
The problem with PDC is there’s never any middle ground. Our reaction is always one extreme or the other. That means we seldom give ourselves grace for process, transition, or change.
My own personal stat line: I feel “awesome” for 4% of the time. The other 96% falls into the “feel like crap” category. PDC might as well stand for “Pit of Deep Crappiness.”
Questions that keep us up at night …
I had recent occasion to think about PDC on my birthday, asking deep, existential questions like:
- “Am I doing what I was born for?”
- “Is my life really making a difference?”
- “Did I miss God’s calling on my life?”
Several years ago I went through a series of re-defining moments. I resigned from a few jobs and relocated a several times, but it was more than that. Things that once defined me no longer did. That was tough.
So if you are going through some re-defining moments in your life — “pivots”, if you will — allow me to share this one simple thought:
What you do does not define you.
We give too much time, thought, and energy seeking affirmation through our occupation. We look for identity in what-we-do, and when what-we-do changes … we freak out.
“Identity” and “assignment” are two very different things. Your work is your “assignment” but it’s not who you are. Moreover, there are some assignments you aren’t meant to accept.
Example: Say I’m an actor. I hear about a lead role in an upcoming historical film and plan to audition. You walk in on me practicing lines and hear:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character!”
Turns out I’m auditioning for a lead role as Martin Luther King, Jr. Your mind quickly races to figure out how to tell me…
“Um, Mike … you’re Korean.”
No matter how great an actor I might be, there’s no way I’d ever win that role. It doesn’t matter if I have better acting ability than Hollywood’s leading men; nothing will ever make me ethnically African-American.
I will always be Korean — regardless of where I live, what I do, or how I dress. I may be culturally different, but when it comes to biology and physiology, that is my identity. And it makes that particular acting assignment “out-of-bounds” for me.
Your assignment may change. Your identity in God does not.
In the same way, I may win other roles portraying characters that have nothing in common with my actual personality or demeanor. I’m simply playing a part — simply executing an assignment.
So, if you’re hung up on why something didn’t work out for you, or why you didn’t get a certain part, please remember not to let that define you.
If you are in your “sweet spot” and revel in your work, that is a precious gift! But I caution you, don’t let it become your identity.
If you’re letting go of something you’ve been known for, please take this to heart: that never defined you (at least in a healthy way).
God never said to me, “You’re called to be a worship leader.” I have only felt Him say, “You are my child, and for a few years I want you to lead worship.”
He never said, “You’re an SAT teacher.” It was more like, “You’re my child, and right now you must do this to pay the bills and learn to reflect me among people that don’t know me.”
He never said, “You are a marketer that blogs, whose destiny is to write ads, design websites, and show people how to create income. Thus saith the Lord, thou art also a podcaster!”
Um, no. (Thank goodness.)
He just said, “This is the best way you can help people with where I have you in life right now, but you are and always will be my child. No more, no less.”
Your assignment can change; your identity in God does not.
Going through a “pivot?”
Transitions are tough. They can be heart-wrenching. When I went through my own pivots, nearly everything that could be shaken … was shaken! But I came out of the process a better person; seasoned, more mature, and bolder.
How have you wrestled with change? I’d love to hear; leave a comment below.
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