Sometime in my late 20s, I lamented to my boss that I was having a mid-life crisis. I think this had something to do with the Olympic games that were being held that year. I loved watching gymnastics and couldn’t help but think that it should be me on television in a leotard flipping and flopping and flying on behalf of my country. Never mind that I had yet to take a single gymnastics lesson in my life. My heart ached to do something with so much passion that it would literally propel me skyward — while also managing to land me firmly on my feet. Plus, I liked the sequins.
At the time, I was married with no kids. With a career in fundraising for a children’s hospital, the work I did was inherently meaningful – and we have already established that I had a kind boss tolerant of premature mid-life crises. I had a house, some cats, a dog, a good husband, and a job. And yet, I had this nagging feeling that if not an Olympic gold medalist, wasn’t I meant for more?
The question of purpose arises intermittently like a bad stomach virus that leaves me longing for the merciful reprieve of a saltine cracker. Life’s epic search for meaning seems like it should take a straight path hurdling over obstacles, dismounting into some profound contribution to humanity, and landing with the specter of triumph (and yes, maybe even a gold medal around one’s neck.) Instead, it throws me off-balance like a gymnast teetering on the brink of a disastrous fall. My trajectory towards something meaningful can feel like an angsty wobble of futility leaving me more frustrated than fulfilled. The great mercy in having been through this multiple times is that I now realize our contributions to the world aren’t always noticeable — even to ourselves. That’s the humility of it.
Recently, a friend who I often suspect is a living, breathing saint, confided that she feels as if she should be doing something “more” or “different” with her life. As much as I admire the impact she has had on myself and others, I understand the emptiness she feels. It’s the emptiness of our humanity that aches for connection to God. It’s that inherent longing to make a difference, to make our lives count, and to find meaning brilliant enough to shine through the cloud of mundanity that we perceive as life’s ordinariness.
Yet, our lives are not ordinary and our purpose has nothing to do with worldly accomplishments. It is to love and serve God and our neighbor. Nothing more. Nothing different. It is to do the next right thing. It is to surrender our expectations and be open and obedient to His. Sure, it’s important to be willing to change paths or answer a call that is tugging at our hearts. It’s just that our purpose has little to do with what we do and everything to do with how we love. It is because of my friend’s unwavering trust in God, that my own trust in him has grown. It is because of her, that I pray the rosary daily. By committing myself to her example, I am able to show love through prayer. I may never see the difference that makes in the world, but I do completely trust that the ripple of what she has taught me will spread beyond what either of us will likely ever see. When I think of that, the question of purpose doesn’t seem like it should command so much of the spotlight. It’s the answer of love that’s the real show stopper.
May we love like we have sequins on.
Having a serious health issue has given me another opportunity to pause and think about my life’s meaning. While I have many thoughts that I look forward to sharing with you, my purpose right now is to simply say thank you for the prayers, encouragement, and warm thoughts that so many of you have shared. I can’t possibly tell you how much hope it gives me. Likewise, I am praying for all of you (this is somewhat selfish because I figure I have to keep you all well so you can pray for me and keep me well too!) Either way, I am trusting that by sharing God’s love with each other (as you all have so generously done with me) then his love will spread, and heal, and bring peace to many. I can’t think of a better purpose for anyone. ~ Lara
Read last week’s post here.