As many of you already know, I not only pastor a small rural church and teach at the local college, I also take a full graduate load of seminary classes. In an assignment I was working on last night, I had been instructed to read Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve read this book. I’m not much on self-help books, but a friend of mine had given me a copy of the book several years ago, and when I opened it to begin reading, I found a post-it note from her with words of love. Maybe I should have read this book a long time ago.
About three chapters in, the book posed a question: what would those who are closest to you say was the purpose of your life? Well, my 18 year old son was in the other room and I decided to try it. In retrospect, that was a pretty dangerous idea. Not only is he an 18 year old who can be very snotty and hateful, but he also has a tendency to be painfully honest.
Too late! I was headed into his room to get my answer. What do those who are nearest to me see as my purpose in life?
His answer came fast: “Trying not to be a shithead.” And then he turned back to his computer and went back about his business. Just like that. A question which I wasn’t even sure I understood, the teacher/preacher who studies theology, was incredibly simple to him. If he needed to sum up the life his mother leads in one phrase, he believed she spends her life attempting to not be a shithead.
I have never been so humbled. Coming from a young man who has been treated very poorly by some adult shitheads in his life, I could not be any more proud than to know that he believes I strive not to be one.
There are so many books out there trying to help people figure out how to find purpose in their lives. I am completing a second master’s degree so that I can better help people who are looking for purpose through the church. There are workshops and self-help groups, and retreats. But in the end, the greatest purpose we can have in life is really simple: attempt to live your life in kindness, in compassion, in giving, and in love. The purpose of your life will shine through when you simply live to give.
For those still looking for purpose in your life, take it from a very wise young man: Live every day trying not to be a shithead.
31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.