If we think about purpose as something that grows within each of us, like a garden, we can break down these growth stages. Just like when you plant a garden you first have to prepare your soil and your garden area, then you put the seeds or starter plants in the ground, you then care for them as they grow and then comes the day when you get to go out to your garden and collect the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.
Each of these stages are important for us to develop skills or uncover gifts that we have to aid us in the purpose. In fact without preparation we might never even discover our purpose to begin with. Let’s walk through the four stages and see if you can figure out where you might currently be as it pertains to your purpose.
Stage 1 – The “Groundwork”: So of course there are a number of things that help define who we are as individuals. There are the circumstances of our birth, the family we are born into, our innate personality traits, our growth environment, our spiritual upbringing, the gifts God has given us, the skills we learn to support those gifts, and the passions that are spoken into us. In addition, we all have life lessons we learn, both good and bad experiences we go through, and people that provide guidance and influence as we build the foundations of who we are.
The “Groundwork” stage is where we get our unique and individual identity. We grow into our own person by taking all of these things and blending them together to make us who we are and define who we will continue to become. If you have prepared your groundwork well, it becomes the foundation upon which everything you do moving forward is built upon. We are able to make specific connections to things that will occur as we pass through life to the work done and understanding gained during this stage of our purpose development. You can think about a specific crisis in your life and how it cultivated a passion to take on a cause. Or a person that you cared about who you helped through an issue that became something you wanted to help address.
Stage 2 – The Sowing: We begin sowing our purpose from the minute we have made a decision to enter the world and interact with it as the developed individual that comes out of Stage 1 above. This might mean you are entering the workforce. It might mean you have been called to mission work or working for a non-profit on a cause that fuels your passions. Maybe it means you have been gifted to be a parent and that is to be your career.
The most important thing to understand is that regardless of what or where you garden ends up being you were built and gifted to be in that garden. You might not always understand why you are where you are or doing what you are doing, but if you have listed to your passions and followed the gifts God has provided for you the place you are sowing your garden is where you are supposed to be. As with a garden, when you are sowing the seeds of your purpose in this stage it may not be clear to you what the whole garden, or the bigger picture of your life, is supposed to look like.
Stage 3 – The Growing: As soon as seeds are sown and water is applied they begin to change. The seed begins to transform and because of that it stops being a seed. Once you have settled into your immediate purpose you should immediately begin to feel this same growth and change. You begin to reach out to others, extending your connections with people that can help you support your purpose. Situations begin to unfold before you in ways that make things just seem like they are right. This does not mean that everything is smooth sailing! Just like your garden needs constant weeding and care so does your life.
You need to continue to learn, to experience, and to listen for the leadings that help you navigate your purpose. You need to be strong enough to know what to ask for support and humble enough to accept it when offered. Each of these experiences help sustain your growth and bring strength to you and your purpose. Because of the challenges many people abandon their purpose before it has a chance to fully develop and reveal itself. They expect that since they are “doing what they are supposed to be” that it will just be easy, or that it won’t require work, or that God will just make it happen. However, there is nothing that says once you are on your right path that everything is downhill. In fact in almost every instance the opposite is almost always true. Be one of those that perseveres and is rewarded by working through the challenges.
Stage 4 – The Harvesting: Now comes the hard part, the harvesting of your garden. The garden that is your purpose produces so many great and wonderful things. It might produce cures for diseases. It might help the next generation through education. It might be that your purpose was instrumental in providing service to one or one thousand people over the course of your life. It might be that your purpose provided you with the financial resources to support the missionary efforts of others or to be able to server others directly. In any case when you begin harvesting it will all seem to come together and you will be living in what we often call the “sweet spot”.
There is however one important thing to remember. Everyone wants to see the work that they have put in and the care that they have provided produce great vegetables and fruits. If you have been successful at growing your purpose and caring for it you expect to see what it produces. Many people are able to see that, but many others never get to see the impact that they have or the good that comes from their purpose and passions. In the book “Crazy Love” author Francis Chan relays a story about a young girl. Her passion was to help bring people to accept Jesus Christ. To do this she created a program to provide bibles to school students. She passed out hundreds and thousands of bibles. Her life ended tragically too young, before she graduated high school. She never fully got to see the impact she had on the world around her, but several thousand people came to her funeral and on that day hundreds of students accepted Christ.
So take heart… Just because you are living in your purpose doesn’t mean everything is easy. It also doesn’t mean that you are going to be “rewarded” with an ability to see the good that you do. But if you ware living in your purpose, you will do good…
“Surrender your life completely. Steward your unique style wisely. Serve others passionately.” ~~ Erik Rees – “Only You Can Be You”- Howard Books, 2009