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Discover your Purpose? You May Already Know!

A Year in the Spiritual Life... Discover Your Purpose: Discover your Purpose? You May Already Know!


Discover your Purpose? You May Already Know!

Marc Alan Schelske 

Maybe You Already Know Your Purpose!

What am I here for? It’s one of the fundamental questions that each of us have to answer. It’s right up there next to “What’s for dinner?” No, wait. It’s far more important than that. That’s my five-year old’s most important question. But you’re not five, and you’re trying to make sense of your life and do something significant with it.

That question is about purpose, which is one of the main topics here on Dayna’s blog. She writes regularly about discovering and living out your life’s purpose. She’s right to write about it. The pursuit of purpose is one of the most important and meaningful things we can do with our lives. But today I’d like to suggest to you that you may already know your purpose. It might not be the vague mystery that you think.

Why Is it this way? Why is it not another?

I’m a bit of a geek. Before I became a pastor I went to design school. I care about things like fonts and white space. I have certain pens that I’m partial to. (I’ve been known to pick up offending pens that make it onto my desk and chuck them into the hallway.) I’m also a big computer nerd, and love things like web design.

All of these interests come together in a technology class that I teach at a local school where I live. The class content lives at the intersection of computers, design, and communication.

In a recent class project, I asked the students to look at household items in their lives and ask two questions: “Why is it this way?” and “Why is it not another way?” These two questions can reveal a lot about the design behind common items, and their purpose. 

For example, look at a spoon. Why is it that way? 

  • A long handle. 
  • A concave bowl that’s only so large. 
  • Smooth edges. 

The answer is obvious, right? A spoon’s purpose is to lift food to our mouths. It needs a lifter. That’s the handle. It needs a scooper. That’s the bowl. The whole thing needs to be of a size that will fit our hands, and will comfortably fit into our mouths. 

Why is it not another way? Why no slots? Why only one handle? Why not a much longer or much shorter handle? Certainly you could design a spoon that has these things. But would those choices compromise the spoon’s purpose?

Why is your life the way it is?

So why this little commentary on the design of a spoon? Here’s why. I believe that you can learn a lot about your purpose by examining your own life in a similar way. I come to this belief from these assumptions:

  • God created you, and did so with a good purpose in mind. In fact, the Ephesians 2:10 says that you are a piece of artwork, created for a good and beautiful purpose. More on this idea here. God knew all about the circumstances that would become a part of your life, shaping your story.
  • Psalms139 makes it clear that there is no part of your life that is a surprise to God.
  • God has been with you all along through the course of your journey, even when you didn't know or weren't aware. Psalms 23 paints this picture.

If these these things are true, then it also means that your story contains within it clues to the purpose God has for your life. I’d like to share some examples from my own life to illustrate what I mean.

The Clues in my own life.

In the past couple of years I've been able to do quite a bit of work looking back at my own story. With help from a coach, a great therapist, a good bit of journaling and prayer, and a number of supportive friends, I've learned more about myself in this recent season, than I ever have before. There are lots of reasons why... that’s a whole other blog post. (That’s a whole other story. If you’re interested in hearing me tell some of it, you can watch that happen here.) 

But one of the results of this work is that I've been able to see my life and story much more clearly than I ever have before. In this process I picked up some pretty important clues about my God-given purpose.

Four central themes kept cropping up. Each one shaped me and my choices. Each one ties back to significant events in my life. I want to share two of them with you here.

I was able to spot a theme centered around being included and creating inclusion for other people. This showed up in painful ways, like not wanting to disappoint people, and trying hard to be liked. But it also showed up in powerful ways, like creating healing community for broken people. I named this theme “belonging.” Looking back through my story I can see that it is life-giving for me to create spaces where failing isn't fatal, and grace allows people to be their very best selves.

I also identified a theme in my life of creativity. Every time in my life that I can remember that was positive and engaging was when I was making something. This drive has had a lot of different expressions: drawing, building, designing, writing, speaking. The most powerful times for me were when the things I created made a difference in someone else’s life. I named this theme “Creative Intentionality.” I have seen that my life is the richest when I am able to create things that serve others well.

My Authentic Core Values

I came to these two themes, and two others, through a process of reflecting on the events of my life and observing what was life-giving and what was not. It turns out that these themes are deeply motivating to me. They are, essentially, personal core values.

They are not core values in the sense that I sat down and compiled a list of qualities I wish were true of me. That kind of list is aspirational. It can serve as a motivator. But it’s not really connected to who I am.

These motivations are authentic core values that emerge from my story. They are a part of who God made me to be (my wiring), and how God has led my life (my circumstances). Taken together, I believe that these authentic core values are a very big clue about the kind of purpose God has for my life.

When I am creating belonging, when I am making things that move people and serve their spiritual journey, I am living in alignment with God’s purpose for me. In those times I am using my gifts and my life experience. In those spaces God is redeeming my broken places and using them to bless others. In those moments, I am fully alive.

Now, Look for the clues in your life.

As 2013 approaches, I want to encourage you to look at your own story for the clues for your purpose. You can do this in a lot of ways. A good counselor or coach can help you. You can do it through personal journaling. 

If these ideas intrigue you, I’d love to give you a copy of my little book, “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values.” It’s available on Amazon in both e- and dead-tree versions. But I’d love to give you a free copy of the eBook right now.This little book is a step-by-step guide for looking at your own story to discover the core values that are authentic to who you are.

About Marc Alan Schelske 

Marc Alan Schelske writes about the intentional spiritual life at He’s served as a pastor full-time for eighteen years, currently in Portland, Oregon, where he gets to encourage people in living the inside-out life following Jesus. He’s deep into a journey of emotional recovery after near-burn out, and is excited to share this discovery: You are a piece of art handmade by God, with a good and beautiful purpose to accomplish in the world.

Join the Conversation: 

How do your core values help shape your purpose? 

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