Finding Your Purpose Through Life’s Many Transitions
I walked through the apartment door weighed down by my overflowing bag of assignments to grade, several textbooks, and my laptop. I heaved a sigh of general weariness as I sat at the small round table in the kitchen. “How was your day?” came a cheery voice entering the room. My roommate helped herself to some water as I merely shrugged, “Ok, I guess.”
“But you’re a French teacher!” She reminded me with enthusiasm. “That’s such a cool job!” And off she went to her room, leaving me to contemplate my attitude and readjust my perspective.
Why did I get up so early every morning to race to work before 7:30am, only to come home in the late afternoon with even more paperwork to correct and organize? Why did I spend so many hours of the day repeating, with superior patience, the most basic of phrases and greetings to the same group of teenagers? The first response that popped in my head was convincing enough: I loved my students fiercely. I threw all my energy into my job, and I wore my dedication like a badge of honor. As a young 27-year-old, I thought I had found my life’s purpose.
When I became pregnant and had twins in the middle of the next school year, I knew I wanted to be a working mom. I couldn’t just abandon my students so quickly. I assumed the working-mom life was exhausting and fraught with logistical details, but I was determined to make it work. My twin infants came with me whenever a school event allowed, and I beamed with pride as I paraded around with their double stroller.
And then, as the next school year started up again without much change in my classroom procedures, my twin infants suddenly grew into twin toddlers. Their unique personalities started to bud, and they were achieving so many exciting milestones. Meanwhile, my routine at school stayed the same. The workload remained the same.
…And I slowly found myself hoping a little more for that snow day, being a little too excited for a guest speaker or field trip, and I counted the days until summer a little too eagerly.
My fierce dedication was fading in the background of a new fierce love…for my own children. But what about my purpose?
It’s a weighty question that never seems to be content with a straight answer. As the seasons of life change, that purpose may seem to take a backseat behind other more pressing life events: a new baby, the death of a family member, a big move, shifting family dynamics. And especially during a season of transition, it’s easy to get lost on the straight and direct path you thought you had laid out for yourself.
Whether it be the young woman in her twenties trying to launch her career, her young marriage, and her independence as an adult…
Or the young professional taking her first maternity leave and not having a clue about how to take care of the fresh newborn in her arms…
Or the seasoned mother looking to do something beyond the house management and child wrangling, but doesn’t have any confidence in her professional skills…
Or the empty-nester mother who feels the deafening sound of quiet rooms…
…these are great seasons of transition where a perceived life purpose becomes a dizzying hue of gray.
Maybe a life purpose isn’t based on a single career decision. Maybe a life purpose goes beyond that oversimplified question asked at any adult gathering: “What do you do?” Maybe a life purpose is bigger, more universal, and beyond the immediate here-and-now:
To love God and to serve others.
Because God is infinite, and there will always be people to serve.
Washing dishes. Writing emails. Cleaning out the car. Changing diapers. Teaching students French. So many opportunities to serve.
Because I can serve my own children with the same fierce devotion as I served my students. I may no longer see my colleagues in the staff lounge, but instead I see plenty of dedicated moms wrangling their own independent preschooler on the playground.
Because in the end, none of the major life decisions matter. Sure, they can feel heavy, even suffocating at times, but in all of these life transitions, you can always respond to God’s purpose for you: To love Him and to serve others.
And accepting THAT as my purpose has alleviated all the pressure to make the right decisions in life. Yes, I must discern the big consequential decisions, discussing all the factors with my loved ones and sound counsel, but ultimately? I can decide on any decent path, have it not work out as well as I had hoped, change course, and STILL live out my purpose.
How are you living out your ultimate purpose?