Saturday, January 30, 2016

Purpose Not Perfection

Every New Years, our church chooses one word to declare over the following year. For 2016, our church chose the word "fulfill". We were also challenged to choose an individual word to live by for 2016. After much contemplation, and possibly a little inspiration from Justin Bieber, I chose the word purpose. When I started searching verses in the bible that talked about purpose, I came across Psalm 138:8 which had BOTH the church's word of "fulfill" and my word of "purpose" in the ESV translation. It quickly became the scripture I would declare over 2016 and what better way to be reminded than to keep it as my iphone wallpaper!

I soon realized that choosing my word for 2016 was the easy part... how I would choose to live by would be the hard work.

What is purpose?
Where do I find purpose?
Where does purpose come from?
Is there purpose in everything?
Am I myself the purpose, or does my circumstances determine the purpose?
Is there one purpose that determines all, or is there a bunch of purposes day to day?

I had so many questions running through my mind, trying to understand this word and what it was going to mean to me this year. It wasn't until situations started coming up where I asked myself "what is the purpose of this?" I realized something... I had been living by another word this entire time... and failing to accomplish it.

When Sunday comes along, I volunteer at my church in the GTA. It's about a 45 minute commute (I absolutely enjoy the drive) but unfortunately, I am late sometimes. When I walk in late, I have major anxiety about what other people will think of me (something I've struggled with off and on my entire life). They must be thinking that I'm a slacker, that I don't care, that I am inconveniencing them, that I have no excuse because I'm single and have no kids so I probably just slept in, etc. The chatterbox is a complete liar because 9 times out of 10, I am only a few minutes late and there are ALWAYS people who arrive later than myself. Aaaand people are not thinking of me as much as I am giving them credit for. Regardless, when I have anxiety, I shut down emotionally and unfortunately it takes a long time to get back out of it. When I started to ask myself, "what is the purpose in my Sunday?" I realized I had been chasing another word this entire time... 

I realized I was setting expectations upon myself to achieve perfection in every circumstance, and when things happened that were out of my control (like traffic) or in my control (didn't manage my time properly) I internalized it and felt like a failure. I would go one step further and emotionally bully myself and then I would rehearse what everyone ELSE was potentially thinking and would let THEM imaginary bully me.

Isn't it incredible how much power is in our thinking?

When I started contemplating purpose... I came to the conclusion that to me, Sunday was about showing up to church, giving of my time, growing in my faith and connecting with my Church family. I had been so focused on perfection, that I managed to miss out on the beauty in the purpose of my Sunday. When "perfection" didn't stand, I let "failure" become my word for the rest of the day and it was not fun.
Spencer Smith Park, Burlington Ont.

This happens to me more than I care to admit.
I let my mind tune into a word like "outcast" "unwanted" "dumb" "annoying" "loner" "______" you fill in the blank. We all have our insecurities and that is normal! But the problem is when that insecurity becomes your word.

Sometimes "unwanted" was my word for an hour. Sometimes for a day. And for a season, it was my word for a couple months. 

Choosing purpose for 2016 has already opened my eyes in a lot of circumstances. I was going to church with my mom and felt we left my apartment a little bit late. My mom also drives ALOT slower than me so I knew we were going to be late. Normally, as my anxiety levels rise, I would let it take over my mood and it would not be a pleasant ride. However, this time I refocused. I asked myself "what is the purpose in this Sunday?" 

The purpose was to go to church together.

Whether we were 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late, the purpose would still be fulfilled.
I'm not going to lie, my anxiety was still there, but because I was focused on the purpose, I didn't let it take control of my mood and we had an enjoyable ride to church!
Oh and I should probably mention, we walked in the front doors right on time.
Had I given into my anxiety on the ride there, it would have been all for nothing.

The more I understand what purpose means to me, the more I realize perfection is unsteady.
In every circumstance, it is up to me to discover what the purpose is, and it is up to me to see purpose be fulfilled. 

Perfection is not a reliable word.