I read a blog post recently discussing our purpose in life. It posed the question of whether we have one lifelong purpose or if our purpose can change over time. It brought to mind my own life and purpose.
Over the years I’ve been active in various churches I attended. Often I would teach Sunday School classes to younger children. I don’t consider myself a good teacher but it was a role that needed to be filled. I willingly volunteered to fill the position until someone more qualified could be found. In those times the churches I attended were small so my purpose there was to serve. I don’t think it was ever my true life purpose, though it did serve a purpose at the time.
The most effective and enjoyable ministry I ever had was the van ministry for a church whose outreach was to youth from unchurched families. Most of these children lived in poverty, as did I. Maybe at the time we were not quite as poor as many of the children the van ministry served, but I could definitely related to their circumstances. I’ve been homeless a couple of times. Had it not been for extended family my spouse and I, along with our children, would not have had a roof over our heads. I loved the children who rode our vans, from the youngest preschooler to the oldest high schoolers. It gave me joy to serve in that ministry because I could love children and show them God’s unconditional love for us.
We had three vans in that ministry though at the beginning none of them were ever full. After I took over the ministry grew. Each week, twice a week, I would call all of the kids on my list and that list just kept growing. The purpose of the call was to see who needed a ride for midweek and Sunday services. The time I spent calling kept getting longer and longer. I didn’t mind, it gave me time to talk to each one outside of the church or van setting. The children on the route I drove would vie for the seat up front, calling ‘shotgun’ especially after church for the ride home. I tried to make sure each child had an opportunity to sit up front with me and I spent the drive time talking and loving those children. It was the ministry God had called me to do at that time.
The ministry grew so much that eventually among the three vans often at least one was overloaded and sometimes more than one. I tried to keep that to a minimum by doing a second route in the areas closest to the church after dropping off the first group of children. Still, the vans would have more children than they were designed to seat. Frequently two smaller children would share a single seat belt. God was blessing the ministry. That is until the pastor decided that we could not have more children in the van than the seatbelts allowed for seating. He was concerned about liability. I suppose that was a reasonable concern but I felt is showed a lack of faith. We actually needed a fourth van. But the funds were not available to purchase another van. I wondered what happened to faith in God will provide.
From the day the pastor announced at a church leadership meeting that we could not allow the vans to be overloaded until the very next scheduled service the van ministry virtually died. The children had no knowledge of what had transpired. I called every one of them as I always did on the evening before to arrange for transportation. That next service there were not enough children to fill one van full let alone all three. My love of the ministry died that day. I still loved all those children but my purpose was no longer to serve in that ministry. When the pastor chose to take control over the ministry because of worldly concerns, God took His hand of blessing off that ministry immediately. Needless to say, we left that church.
Leaving that ministry and that church left me questioning what my purpose was. I had a full time job where I commuted over an hour each way on a daily basis. That time was used to listen to Biblical teachings and to pray. One day I asked God what He wanted me to do to better serve Him. His answer, as clear in my mind as though He spoke aloud was, “Love my people.” I understood that He did not mean believers only but all people who would be placed in my life regardless if for a moment or for years. I was also given a vision of a vast valley already planted but not yet ready for harvest. My job was to tend the crops. How better to cultivate than to be an example of God’s love to those who do not know His love or even those who think they do but do not truly understand His unconditional love.
The calling is perfect for me. God instilled in me a desire to have good relationships with others. He taught me love by placing me in a loving home to grow up and be loved unconditionally. He gave me a husband who loves me unconditionally and who taught my children to love me unconditionally. I have to be honest, I was sometimes very hard to love because as a young woman I had not gained control of my temper. Regardless, my life has been blessed tremendously with unconditional love and I have learned to give my anger over to God. By that point in my life I was truly a ‘relationship’ person.
That has been many years now. I am not a social person. I have very few friends and it is difficult for me to make the time to build friendships. That said, I don’t have many opportunities to witness God’s love to others for any length of time. I do not have a job, so there is no longer the daily interaction with co-workers. At this point I have limited, temporary interactions with people in public places. I have to make the most of those exchanges. Sometimes all I can do is smile at people in passing and pray for them. Most of my social contacts at this point are on social media. Even on social media I have opportunities to love people. There may not be the face to face witness of love, but, by praying, encouraging, sympathizing, and when the opportunity arises telling parts of my spiritual growth experience I can witness unconditional love to others.
I do not hide my faith, nor do I get into religious arguments. Arguing is certainly not the way to witness God’s unfailing, unconditional love. Only our salvation is conditional, that condition is to believe and accept the free gift of God by believing and accepting Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as the sacrifice for our sins that we may have eternal life. People who do not believe are still loved by God. I’m sure that it saddens God when His people reject Him. To love His people is to desire earnestly that all should know God and accept the free gift of eternal life. It is my purpose to view everyone, including those who do not know Jesus personally, as lovable because God loves them.
It really is not my place to make judgement. Sure, I can see and evaluate the fruit, but, only God has the right to judge and when that final judgement comes we will be astounded at how perfectly just is His judgement. So I do my best to accept everyone, in love, without judgement. I pray for the lost and the needs of both those who know Jesus as Savior and those who do not. I care for the fields that have already been sowed and eventually someone else will harvest.