POSTED ON FEBRUARY 23, 2011:
A Divine Mess
Finding purpose in your life's story
This article is different then most. I guess you could call it a page out of my personal journal the last few weeks.
I've spent the past two weeks with 40 individuals who are in the process of capturing their story. We've all taken a big poster board, made a timeline of our lives, and listed all the highs and lows that we've faced along the way.
It's pretty incredible to step back and take a wide-angle view of your entire life. You quickly realize there is no such thing as a straight-line life. Every story is filled with detours, zigzags, unknowns, disheartening failures and unbelievable successes.
What's even more amazing is the journey that other people have taken to arrive where they're at today. Right when I think I've heard it all the person next to me begins sharing the details of their life and there I sit, mouth wide open, trying not to look too shocked.
It's even more amazing when you begin to see God's bigger purpose, his divine plan that has been at work in every aspect of your life's journey through the highs and the lows.
Last year I wrote an article called "Wounded Healers." The truth is that everyone has baggage; we've all been wounded. Sometimes the wounds can be so deep that we think to ourselves, "I'm not sure if I can ever overcome this one."
The reality is that God desires to take our wounds; the deep hurts and use them to bring life and healing to others walking through that same valley. You may walk with a limp the rest of your life but the pain becomes part of your story, it doesn't define you.
You can never come to this reality unless you embrace God's unique design on your life. You have a distinct stamp of God on your life that nobody on this planet shares. Much like your fingerprint or the contours of your face, you may find other people with similarities but nobody is exactly the same as you.
In Ephesians 2:10 we are told by the Apostle Paul "We are his (God's) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." Other translations tell us that "we are his masterpiece."
Unfortunately, many look at their failures, shortcomings, and struggles and feel more like a masterpiece gone wrong. We may have been a masterpiece at the beginning but now we need to be scrapped for something that's flawless.
The truth is that our lives usually resemble a mosaic more than a painting. We are a mass of broken pieces that look disorganized and without purpose. Only when we step back and look from a distance do we see evidence of purpose, planning, and preparation.
There may be no greater story in the Bible that displays these principles more than the story of Jonah. He received a calling from God and then found himself in the middle of the storm of century, eaten by a giant fish, hanging out for three days in its belly, and then was regurgitated onto dry land. Was it uncomfortable? Was it painful? Was God still in control through the chaos?
As I walked through this process, here's a few of the things we asked ourselves as we took a wide-angle view of our personal story:
What experiences in your life have impacted you the most? These experiences have shaped your life. Out of these experiences, both painful and joyful, how can you begin to help others going through similar trials?
Secondly, begin to identify your abilities. You were born with innate talents and abilities that you are naturally good at and you experience joy when you use them. What are your top abilities and which of them bring you the most joy and energy when you use them?
Last of all, what are you passionate about? Passions are something that are given to us from God and more than likely will be found somewhere in our story if we are looking close enough.
Here's the questions that help you identify your passion: What brings you to tears or frustration? What needs really take hold of your heart or revs up your engine when you begin to ponder it? If failure were not a factor, what would you begin pursuing with your life?
Somewhere wrapped up in the story of your life are the answers to those questions. Just remember, God didn't mess up in the design process, he didn't abandon you in the valleys, and he's not done with you right now. The greatest, most fulfilling place on the planet is when you begin to use what God has given you to impact the kingdom of God and help change others. That's when it truly becomes a masterpiece.
-(Matt Nelson is the lead pastor at City Church.)
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