The Year of Purpose

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’ve had this quote on my bulletin board since high school. It captures why I love writing, why I feel the need to write, and why I started this blog.

Going back to my teenage years, I’ve written a theme for most every year of my life. Sometimes in advance. Sometimes retrospectively. I think it’s important to slow down and reflect on life. And writing helps me do this.

2011 is The Year of Purpose for me. I’m trying to focus on making sure that every activity I spend time on is fulfilling the purpose for my life. It’s a lofty goal. And one of which I often fall short.

I often start my Year on my birthday, rather than on New Year’s Day. After all, that’s when I started. Recently, I turned one year shy of a half century. And about six years short of getting free Senior Coffee at McDonald’s. I can hardly believe what an old geezer I’ve become. But that only underscores the importance of making sure we squeeze every drop of life out of each passing year.

In looking back through some old prayer journals, I ran across a couple of entries I thought bore sharing. The first is a quadrant chart. I tend to think visually, and I’m fond of these charts that help me to see life at a glance.

I went through my typical week and made a list of all the activities in which I spend my time. I use the term “spend” very deliberately. Because that’s exactly what we do. Each day we get 1,440 minutes deposited in our life account. (Of course, no one is promised a single minute from now, but you know what I mean.) We make choices throughout the day as to how we spend them. Periodically in our life, we make major decisions in our life that pre-decide many of those choices. For example, when you accept a position of employment, you pre-decide how you will spend many of those minutes. When you get married, or have children, or become a Kentucky basketball fan, many of those choices are now virtually made for you. So I believe it’s important to periodically take inventory of those choices—the major ones and the minor, discretionary ones—to make sure you’re not spending your time without purpose.

In the chart below, there are two axes:

  • Horizontally, a continuum of Enjoyment
  • Vertically, a continuum of Fulfillment, as in fulfillment of my life purpose

Of course, you need to know what your purpose is, and that’s a whole ‘nother blog—or two. But in truth, we all have the same basic purpose—and it’s not about you. It’s all about God. Our purpose is to bring Him glory. In the words of the Westminster Catechism: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Or as I’m learning in John Piper’s excellent book Desiring God, “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Subtle change. Profound difference.

So you might say the vertical axis is “Glorifying God” and the horizontal axis is “by enjoying Him.”

I encourage you to make your own chart and plot your own points. The object of life is to live as much as possible in Quadrant #1. Second best is Quadrant #2. Try to stay out of #3 and #4.

Sometimes, nay, often, it’s the attitude that needs adjustment, not the activity. But we need to strive to make sure that we’re living in Quadrant #1 most of our life. If not, make some adjustments—in your attitude and/or your activities. When making your chart, be honest, as I have tried to do. This is not an exercise in how things should be, but how they truly are.

I mentioned I had a second entry from my prayer journal that I would like to share it as well. Again, I encourage you to make your own list like the one below. Reflect. Repent. Restore. Renew.

If I was 90 looking back at my life, here’s what I wish I’d done:

  1. Memorized more Scripture.
  2. Taken advantage of more opportunities to witness and cared less about what people would think.
  3. Had more people over for dinner.
  4. Watched less TV; read more books.
  5. Taken an interest in other people more.
  6. Prayed more.
  7. Learned more about God from the Bible.
  8. Slowed down more to reflect on life.
  9. Been more positive. Seen the good in things.
  10. Passed along more compliments.
  11. Smiled more.
  12. Created more art (photography, paintings, etc.)
  13. Written more out of enjoyment.
  14. Started more family traditions.
  15. Showed my love for Tina more. (These are in no particular order!)
  16. Made my quiet time/devotions more intense.
  17. Been more intentional about witnessing to old friends, neighbors.

I’ve never understood or really believed people who say they have no regrets. I guess they mean that everything worked out for the good—even when if it started out bad. God often does that (click here for an example). But I can’t say I have no regrets. I regret every wasted minute that I didn’t bring glory to God by enjoying Him more. And there have been far too many of those minutes. May this little reminder help each of us to have more reflection and fewer regrets. If it happens, it won’t be by accident. It will very intentionally be on purpose.

P.S. Wondering what the photo of the airplane at the top of this post has to do with anything? If you want to know your specific purpose in life, while you’re glorifying God, discover what kind of airplane you are. If you’re wide and heavy, you’re probably made to carry cargo. If you’re fast and nimble, you’re probably a fighter jet. If you’re full of seats, you’re probably a passenger plane. There are all kinds of different planes. One-seaters. Two-seaters. Lear jets. Gliders. The Concorde. Everyone is unique. Don’t try to carry cargo if you’re small and fast. And don’t try to fight battles, if you’re broad and large. Don’t try to fulfill a purpose you’re weren’t designed to do. It’s not that difficult. Look how God designed you, aim high, and then soar.



Filed under Do, Prayer Journal

3 responses to “The Year of Purpose

  1. Ginger

    This is a very good article. Because I had the privilege to grow up as your daughter, I often think of my life in terms of this quadrant. I’ve even been known to organize my “To Do” lists in this form, because I’m not just a nerd, but an uber-nerd. I can’t say I always spend my life in #1 or #2, but so many people don’t even realize the importance, or worse — make it their goal to spend much of life in #3 as possible (humanist hedonists), or think it’s more holy to live in the “not enjoyable” #4 (too many Christians I’ve met who have not yet discovered the importance of Christian “hedonism). 🙂

    Thanks, geezer!

    P.S. – I like the airplane analogy. Matt and I have been talking a lot lately about the unfortunate realities of #2 — where he’s living his life in school right now. (I thought you chose the airplane to go with the Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote!)

  2. Layne Perkins

    How do I find out what kind of airplane I am?

    • Just look at your SHAPE:
      S-Spiritual Gifts (supernatural giftings you get when you become a believer)
      H-Heart (what you naturally enjoy and are burdened for)
      A-Abilities (natural aptitudes and skills)
      P-Personality (your temperament)
      E-Experience (your background and past experiences)
      Source: Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, pp.234-256

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s