Purpose: The Big “P” and little “p” of Purpose
“How do I find my purpose?”
“I just don’t feel like I have a purpose.”
This question and this statement, and its many variations, require us to venture back to the core question, “What is purpose?”
For years, as a pastor, people would come to me with these types of comments searching for a path or plan that would lead them to the elusive destination of purpose. I would typically respond as follows: I believe we have two stories, two purposes, simultaneously playing out in our lives. One, is the meta-story, the overarching big picture that we actually all have in common. Let’s call this the Big “P” purpose.
Much like how we refer to the Church, the whole universal body of Christ, as the big “C” Church, we are all a part of this level of purpose. But just as little “c” churches are ideations of the big “C,” variants that reflect toward a portion of the big “C” picture, we have purposes within our lives that are unique to us as individuals. Let’s call this little “p” purpose. Many people reference little “p” purpose as our calling. It’s like the icing on the cake. And I think there are more nuances within this “icing” than we are often taught. So we are all a part of this big “P” picture, played out in all sorts of ways through our little “p” pictures.
Jesus references the overarching purpose, big “P” in this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Drawing upon the words from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, Jesus reminds his audience to return to the basics, press in to a deeper understanding, awareness, and application of a relationship with God. The when and how will be unique to each of us, and they will shift and evolve through our life time, but our big “P” purpose is a commission shared across all of God’s children.
Yet, most of our energy, effort and often times our worry is wrapped up in our little “p” purpose. Where we work. Where we live. Who we align ourselves with. These decisions create a ripple effect; wisdom and discernment should always be applied, but yet these decisions still remain small in comparison with our big “P” purpose.
Jesus’ comments, we often take in reference to provision, apply across concerns about purpose as well.
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
I have often heard big “P” purpose explained as “to worship, praise and glorify God.” Pastor and author, Rick Warren, elaborated on this concept through his best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. However, his work is often summarized in a statement such as the one mentioned above that leaves a gap in our understanding or purpose. Both “P”urpose and “p”urpose should be an overflow from a growing relationship with God rather than an image of God sitting in heaven awaiting our praise and recognition in hopes to unlock some secret to move Him to action.
God is not a genie to be evoked by the singing of a song or the chanting of a prayer. God stands outside insecurity or vanity, there is not an inferiority complex or an ego to stroke. Our glorifying God is intended to be a result of a recognition of who God is in our lives and the value He placed in us from the very beginning. Our praise serves as a reminder for us, not for Him. Keeping our eyes fixed on His Kingdom benefits us rather than validates Him. Your Purpose, our Purpose, Purpose with a big “P,” is maturing and resting within a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, “all these things will be added,” is the adventure of purpose with a little “p.”
At ABBA, we are committed to connecting people with purpose, both big “P” and little “p” purpose, through crafting intentional programs and experiences that connect you more with your community and other leaders while investing in your spiritual development too. During different seasons of your life, different passions will ebb and flow. You may be called to focus on parenting for a time, later to discover a heart burdened for a particular issue in your community. You may find yourself in a time of companionship, with co-laborers to journey alongside you as your callings align for a moment. And later, you may find yourself in a time, like Abraham, called to move away to a foreign land to discover God’s movement elsewhere.
Jesus recommended we allow purpose to unfold – to unfold within the arms of Ultimate Purpose. Different companies, fields, or careers may foster your creativity, cultivate your skills, challenge your character, all stops along your purpose with a little “p” path. This landscape changes, while purpose with a big “P” becomes your fixed horizon–your true north. I believe God is less concerned with where you go, and more concerned that you invite Him along for the journey.