Over the past 15 to 20 years, this great quote has fleshed itself out in the form of a question: “What’s my purpose in life”. I’ve asked this of myself, challenged others to reflect and I’ve seen many find fulfillment as they discover who God meant them to be. As a man transitioning in life, I find myself once again wrestling with this question, yet the typical question of my past is not resonating with my heart. Finding “my purpose” in life has self focused undertones, implying the goal of discovery is to fill a personal, internal void. I realize the implied idea is that “my purpose” benefits others and makes an impact for good in this world, but this form of the question still starts with me. I don’t want the underlying driver of my life to be one that is motivated by personal interest. My human nature has no problem with self-preservation; I naturally drift towards benefiting me. What I need is a question, a starting point, that shifts my focus outward first, and personal fulfillment becomes a byproduct.
The other side of this question that’s eating at me is a distorted perspective of what my life will be like once I find “my purpose”. Many times I believe once I find my purpose, life will be easier with less struggle and pain. The opposite is true. Internally I will have more peace, but the discovery of “who God meant for me to be” marks the beginning of true sacrifice. It’s at that point our eyes are opened to the enormous emotional and physical payment we must give to live in our purpose.
So I’ve started to look at my life with a different phrase. Find my soil. Find the plot of land created for you to till, plant, water and hopefully harvest. Soil takes on a variety of meanings. For some their soil might be a specific community. Local politicians, police officers, government employees, retired volunteers invest in their community, work in it, vote to improve it and know that they are a part of influencing the families that live there and moving their community forward. Other leaders find a church as their soil. They pour everything they have into it, impacting the individuals God brings to them. The soil for others might be a people group; orphans, women, teenagers, abused, alcoholic, Kenyans, migrants, and they pour all they have into impacting these types of individuals for good. Sometimes moving to a different country, starting a non-profit, or gaining degrees to work in a field that helps a specific group. Still others might view a country as their soil, investing all of their skills and influence to move their country to a better place. There are many individuals in the current middle east uprisings who have laid their lives on the line to move their county to a better place. Some have found a talent to be their soil. Sports starts who pour all they have into a sport and utilize it to impact others. Musicians or artists who bare their soul through art. Owners who toil in the soil of their business to create life for those who work in the organization.
Finding your soil starts with looking outside of yourself. Looking at who or what you can impact for good in this world. It’s foundation is “others focused”, and it helps take the focus off of me. Also implied in this approach is the idea that there is work involved, hard work. There is nothing easy about farming and there is never assurance of harvest. You commit to a plot of land, plant what you have, water and trust that God will grow it.
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” -St. Catherine of Siena