Many of us struggle all our lives with the existential questions such as, “Why am I on planet earth?”, or when framed in a more religious context, “What is God’s will for my life?” The quest to discover the answer to these questions leaves many of us stuck in a fatalistic, passive, ho-hum resignation that the answer is to mystical or difficult to figure out. It feels like we have to be a spiritual guru, mystic or prophet who regularly gets open-eyed 3-D visions, hears the audible voice of God, or sees angels. If not a mystic, we feel like we have to be Bill Gates with the intellect of a genius to unravel the labyrinth of life.
Realizing that we are not spiritual giants or geniuses, we decide to just let life happen to us, or hope that God zaps us with a clear directive dictated through the proverbial writing on the wall or through a vision of an angel telling us what to do. We end up paralyzed as we grope around in the dark or fog waiting for this sudden flash of light, angelic appearance, or prophet to illuminate the path or direction we should take. We end up feeling like the quest for our life’s purpose is much like playing the proverbial game of pin the tail on the donkey blindfolded. At best we have a 10% – 30% chance at hitting the mark.
This is not to say that God doesn’t speak to some through more exotic or supernatural means on a regular basis. It is the feeling and thinking that if we don’t regularly get dreams, visions, or angelic visitations then something is wrong with us spiritually, or that we don’t quite measure up that I want to free us from. God does speak through extra-ordinary ways when we are in danger, need a dramatic change in direction, or when we start out developing our spiritual radar to encourage us that He is real! Yet for most of us and in most cases the journey of hearing God’s voice is a conversational relationship between two friends that recognize each others voice after spending a lot of time together. They don’t need to shout at one another to get each other’s attention!
Others of us embark on a complicated journey of attempting to unravel the mystery as if it were a game that we can conquer if we could only figure out the rules and master them. We think our life calling is like a riddle, a Rubix cube brain teaser, or like trying to untangle a knotted ball of yarn that simply needs to be figured out. If we just get the formula right or execute our 5 year plan, the road map for our lives will be clear and a straight line to our end destination. The harder we try to make things happen and bring about our desired outcome, the more we realize that we are not fully in control. There are surprises and serendipitous encounters that just happen and become pivotal threads in forming the tapestry of our life mission.
For many, the quest for our life purpose or God’s will for our lives seems so illusive, and only to be attained by the few really smart people or the spiritually elite folks. We feel like schmucks or second class citizens when others speak with confidence about their life mission and how they are living it. I want to debunk this kind of thinking.
“Finding our calling should not be so complicated and mystical. It is neither a formula or a mystery! It is more like the zig zag adventure of connecting the dots by following our hunches in the midst of making value based choices. As we follow our intuition with intention, the bigger picture of our life mission takes shape.” Tim Schultz
It is a series of daily small decisions we make like choosing which stones to step on to get to the other side of the river. It is both a subjective and objective process where we need to give up the fear of making mistakes or getting it wrong. I want to demystify this journey of discovery of our life purpose by suggesting some ways to connect the dots and have fun doing it.
- Listen, trust, and move on your hunches, gut feelings, nudges, or what Christians call the ‘still small voice or whisper’. (I Kings 19:12) Other words to describe your gut feeling is intuition or discernment. For Christians, this is where the interaction and conversation with the Holy Spirit takes place.
I know that following one’s hunches raises some good questions like: “How do I know that my hunches are right and that I’m not just making stuff up or being led by my emotions?” “How do I know whether the still small voice is God or not?” Like any relationship, we learn to recognize the familiarity of the voice of our friend by spending time with them, listening to them, and risk taking on what we hear. (John 10:4-5; II Cor. 2: 12-13) Another safeguard is to test our gut feelings through the filter of our core values. If a hunch contradicts them then best to test that hunch by consulting some friends, collecting more objective info, and not making a rash decision based on our hunch.
- Make room for, and adjust to the surprises and serendipitous encounters or experiences that come along your path and change your course, or interrupt you plans! (Proverbs 16:9;I Cor. 16:5-9) Interruptions to our plans are to remind us that as much as we plan there are factors beyond our control that shape who we are to become. We can fight or resist these seeming zigs and zags, and in doing so miss out on wonderful opportunities or open doors.
- Get the car in drive. Start moving in a direction even if the road map is not yet fully clear as to where you
will end up. If you need to make adjustments to your course, you can do so while in motion, or if God needs to re-direct you He can do so even through more dramatic ways such as through a dream, vision, or an angel. (Acts 16:6-10)
- Daily Live Your Values. (I Thess. 5:16-22) These are the ropes or chains that you hold on to and keep you from straying off the path and over a cliff by making decisions solely on subjective feelings that could be catastrophic. If you are a follower of Jesus start by ‘obeying the Book.’ As you do the general will of God, He will give you the specifics.
Figure out what you are good at, what you really enjoy doing, and keep doing more of that. (Romans 12:6-8) I tell people that I was born to coach, start things-which means being a catalyst, and connecting people to one another. One reflection exercise to help unearth these passions or motivational gifts is to look back on your life up to this point and track what kinds of things have you done where you felt a sense of this is what I was created to do. When have you experienced the most joy, fulfillment, and a clear sense of contribution?
- Ask for input from friends or community around you. (Proverbs 15:22;16:20) Court counsel from folks who really know you, are for you, and will be honest with you even to the point of telling you what you might not like to hear.
- Have fun in the adventure and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
By Tim Schultz