Dear Purpose Chaser
BY AK CARROLL
Dear Purpose Chaser,
I see you … running mile after mile on the treadmill of aspiration, earbuds blasting the ballad of an uphill climb. I see you seeking, searching, striving. I see you trying so hard as sweat seeps from your pores.
It isn’t an effort that you make in vain. But it isn’t one that you need to make either.
It just is. You just are. And it is not a bad thing just to be.
That is how you started this journey so many years back before the world set you up to go make something of yourself, or the church sent you out to discover God’s plan. Before any of that was, you were.
And you, my love, were wonderful.
It can be hard to believe with all that passion and drive that sits in your center. All that longing for meaning and encouragement to go out and find it or make it or make yourself worthy of it.
If you are anything like me, Purpose Chaser, you have been on this quest since the day you first found yourself lacking; since that moment that your heart was pricked by the pinpoints of comparison and competition.
Once you learn that love can be earned, you get to work toward meaningful attachment. You strive to become the sort of person you think you need to be for your phone to light up with blue bubbles and red notifications. You throw Pinterest-worthy parties for the friends that you want and get coffee and cocktails with those who are willing. You send flowers and cards. You hashtag on social. But community is hard, and people are fickle, even the ones who really do love you. You cannot count on their affirmation, and you cannot always offer it yourself. Not in a way that satisfies your craving.
So you shift to one person. This you can do. You go to mixers and meet-ups and large gatherings full of unattached humans. You ring-check potential partners and flirt in ways that feel more like acting than being yourself. You set up profiles and started swiping, all the while hoping this will end with a satisfying role to play.
And maybe you find it, and maybe you don’t. Maybe you move in and buy towels or get married and make vows, and act on your dream of weekend road trips and cozy nights in, a hand to hold when you feel all alone. But then there are other scenes that you hadn’t prepared for — disagreements over why you feel so disconnected, a sense of aloneness instead of connection, the panic of realizing you’ve lost your freedom or the fear that somehow this was all a mistake.
You shift from people to profession. You get a job. It may not be “the” job. You know, the dream job that you target as an aspiration when you’re drafting your LinkedIn profile. It may not be that job, but still, it’s a job. And you work so hard at that job. You invest in relationships with team members, decorate your cubicle, and clear out your inbox. You get in early. Stay late. Take on projects you don’t have time for as you edge ever-closer toward promotion. You get caught up in a system that promises something you can never quite grasp, and you do it with a smile, though inside you are exhausted.
You think of quitting your job, or maybe you do quit your job so you can contribute to something you really believe in: a grassroots nonprofit or burgeoning startup, your own passion project of a business or a three-month sabbatical in South America. You make plans to teach English overseas, volunteer at an orphanage, live in a refugee camp, or work in an organic vineyard in Tuscany. But whether or not you act on those plans — which may not be bad plans, and which could and almost certainly will change your life — one truth remains. None of these options will give you the thing you really want, which is the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing what you were made to do.
In order to get that thing — in order to really find purpose — you need only to do one thing, and that is nothing at all.
You need only to be who you are. Who God has already made you to be.
Do you remember what it was like to just be? In those moments when you were not on a journey or a path. When you were laying on the grass looking up at the clouds, spinning circles in a field until you were so dizzy you fell over, curled up on a couch as the fire warmed your toes, or running full force down the sidewalk just to see how fast you could go. There was no purpose to find or make. Just the task of being you. Fully formed. Already arrived.
Your purpose, my love, is to be you. Purely. Simply. Fully. You.
You without the expectations of your family, your friends, your community, or your colleagues. Without a standard of beauty, sexuality, spirituality, or success. You without any standards at all. Free to run or rest or sing or sit in the vastness of the world God created for you to enjoy, even as God is enjoying you. Watching you. Nudging you as you grow into yourself.
There is this scene from the scriptures in which Jesus and his cousin John are waists deep in water, standing in the current of the Jordan River. Though he’s already made an impression, Jesus is a relative newcomer. He is a speechless prophet, his teachings untried. This baptism is akin to the rabbi’s inauguration, and at the commencement of the Christ, there is only one speaker and the message is brief.
“This is my son, the Beloved,” booms a disembodied voice. “With him I am well pleased.”
Before he offered subversive sermons or soul-shifting teachings, before he raised the dead or fed the masses, before enemies attacked or friendships formed, Jesus was already Beloved of God. His purpose incarnate in skin cells and spirit. Fully formed. Fully pleased.
That is the secret, Purpose Chaser. It is within you already. It has been there since the day you were born.
You have never not had a purpose. It’s only when you start to look outward to find it that you lose the sense of its presence, even as you lose sight of Love or connection with God. In all that striving to seek what you ought to become, you forget your most valuable possession — the gift of the person you already are.
That full and free person is somewhere inside. You can always go back. I believe that you can. I hope that you will. And I trust when you do that you will find more meaning and purpose than you dared to guess was within you.
PHOTOS BY IVANA CAJINA + NSEY BENAJAH