Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Purpose Driven Life

I read this book for the first time when I was 28. I mention this because reading this is an important part of what got me to this moment in time.

When I was 28, I was working as a bank teller. From past posts, you know it wasn’t my favorite job in the world. I am fortunate enough that I’ve known from a youngish age what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and being a bank teller isn’t it.

Even though I thought I knew what God was calling me to do with my life and what my purpose is, I was sort of stuck in how to get there. I was in a dead end job, didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, and didn’t have any plans to go back to school anytime soon. But I was really feeling the void in my life of not being in ministry somewhere, and I hoped that reading this book would give me some insight and kick-start some motivation, if I had any left.

The author, Rick Warren, recommends that the reader do this book as a study; instead of reading it from end to end, take it one chapter a day, reading slowly and thinking about what’s just been read. So I did that. I read one chapter a day for forty days, and at the end of that time, I was excited to start the journey back to ministry.

Since I’m probably going to be working with the poor and homeless most of the rest of my life, I decided that I would volunteer at our local Salvation Army shelter. I met with the person in charge one afternoon after work, got a tour of the building, and filled out all the paperwork that night. The sooner I got it in, the sooner I could start volunteering. The next morning, I woke up excited and with a plan to move forward.

Have you ever heard God speak, and you just knew it was God? I have. Most of the things I hear aren’t really words but impressions. But there have been 2 or 3 times when I’ve heard God say something quite clearly, and this next day was probably the first time I remember hearing it so clearly. It was a quiet day at work, and I was reading a book between customers, but thinking about the next step in my “Stephanie saves the world” plan (hahahaha). Out of nowhere, I hear, “It’s time to go back to school.” I’ll be honest; if it had just been that, I probably would have laughed it off and not paid attention, but the words were accompanied by an intense desire to get back into school. Remember, I started that day uninterested in going back to college, so this was a complete 180.

I never did follow up at the Salvation Army. But I looked at going back to school and finishing my education as the more important way for me to get back into ministry, and in the years since then, I have felt a very deep peace as confirmation of that choice. Right now, furthering my education is going to help me get back into ministry.

So that’s part of how I got to where I am right now. And starting today, I’m going to revisit this book – not because I need another kick-start, but because I need to read it as someone studying stewardship. This book covers (if I remember correctly) everything I’m studying this semester.

We all live out stewardship in different ways. As Christians, we have some of the same mandates, but the way we go about it can be quite different depending on the person. God tells each of us to spread the Gospel, but not everyone can be a Billy Graham. Some people, like my friend Erin, share Christ with people on airplanes bound for Ukraine. Some people, like my friend Holly, share the Gospel with people trying to stay sober by helping them work through the twelve steps. How each of us goes about doing the work God has prepared us to do is up to God. The Purpose Driven Life isn’t a book that gives you the steps to take to get to the goal. It’s a book that helps you discover what you need to do to discern and live out your purpose. There are no right or wrong answers and no definitive steps, except to love God and love your neighbor.

Over the next forty days, I’ll be sharing this journey with you as well. Think of it as a journey within a journey, because I’ll still be posting about the other books I’m reading too. I haven’t said nearly enough about Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, so I’ll be posting about that again in the next few days. I’m not going to promise to post every single question that Warren poses, because some of them are pretty personal. But I promise to post at least every few days so you can get an idea of who I am and what my purpose is, beyond what I’ve posted about the books I’m reading.

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