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The Dirty Little Secret Behind Finding Your Purpose in Life

So let’s sit down and talk. Knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye. I’m a pastor, that’s what I do. Let’s ask a lot of questions. Questions take us on journeys, ones that help us find what we’re looking for.

Let’s be honest. Let’s pretend we’re in a confessional booth (even though I don’t do that in my tradition). We can tell the truth and no one else has to hear our answers. We’re safe. Let’s talk.

Let’s talk about how bored you are right now in your current, actual life, even though on paper, you shouldn’t be. Let’s talk about how you got what you wanted and it isn’t what you thought it would be. Let’s talk about how you’ve given up desiring anything that would be really satisfying because you just can’t take one more disappointment.

Let’s talk about your marriage, the one that actually is, not the one that should be. Or let’s talk about your lack of marriage. Let’s talk about what is bubbling and brewing beneath those two glasses of wine every night, or the pornography, or the office romance that excites you more than you’d like to admit, since you’re married and so is he.

Let’s talk about finding a way toward honesty. Not the kind of black and white, declarative, ping-pong honesty that is all sound and fury, but the kind of honesty that knocks you down first, and then sets you free.

What makes you angry? What are the news stories that you can’t even watch because it would cause a forest fire inside of you that would blaze out of control, engulfing you?

What makes you giddy with joy, just thinking about it?

Or let’s talk about how numb you feel, because you can’t find any answers to either of the last two questions.

Let’s talk about how finding your purpose in life is how our culture is currently trying to answer all of those questions.

What’s your purpose in life?

Let’s talk about the question that lurks behind that question.

I think the question behind that question is some form of: How can I be ridiculously happy all the time, avoiding all the boredom and conflict and addiction that I currently have, while saving the planet and looking heroic while doing so?

Isn’t that the paycheck we’re hoping to land once we get the answer to that question?

Let’s talk about how “You can be whatever you want to be” is lazy and dishonest, because there are certain things you can’t be and shouldn’t even try to be.

The problem is that most of us look outside of our actual life to find our purpose in life, as if it’s just sitting in someone else’s house, on their cracked leather couch, waiting for us to ring the doorbell, if only someone would give us the address.

Oh, I hope you find where your deep joy meets the world’s great need, as someone once said. But I don’t think that happens by reading lots of books on finding your purpose in life. And I don’t think you’ll find your purpose in life by looking outside of your actual life.

The dirty little secret behind finding your purpose in life is that it’s right there, right in front of you, it’s just buried under the expectation that finding it will solve all of your problems and make you ridiculously happy.