What is God’s Purpose for You?
No one is a mistake. This is a great truth. Each and every one of us is on earth for a purpose. God created each and every one of us to fulfil his purpose on earth, to make a contribution in the service of God and humanity.
If you ask a young child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, you will get answers such as “I want to be a pilot”, or “I want to be an air hostess”, or “I want to be an astronaut”, or “I want to be a nurse”. We all want to be something that satisfies our aspiration of what it means to live a meaningful and worthwhile life as a human being. We want to have a sense of self-actualisation.
This sense of wanting to be something can grow into a vocation, a sense of calling. As we grow up we may realise we have a special inclination to follow a certain career in life. It may be teaching, working as an academic, a journalist, a religious sister or a computer scientist. For some, the dreams of early childhood may continue into adulthood and shape the careers they are going to follow.
On the other hand, as some grow older they may discover professions that are quite different from the aspirations of their early childhood dreams.
But before we proceed, let us be clear about our concepts here: A vocation is not necessarily identical to one’s individual calling.
For example, many young people are called to religious life. Some of these may feel they are called to the priesthood; but some may become more than just priests – some may become bishops, some cardinals and very few may end up as popes. Thus the vocation to the priesthood is transformed into a higher calling.
God called Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the priesthood; but he was not to be just a priest, but also an archbishop, a cardinal and finally the first Jesuit pope. And as pope, he has a special calling that distinguishes his calling from that of, say Pope Benedict XVI or that of St John the XXIII.
Not all of us are called to high offices like that of a bishop or pope, but each has a calling to make a special contribution. This calling, this sense of purpose, is what makes life worthwhile.
One’s sense of wanting to be something significant can turn into a preoccupation with my sense of self. This is not bad in itself, but it turns into something not so good when my concern is no longer about the welfare of others or about what my Creator expects from me; but about “me, myself and I”. This may translate into selfish ambition: for wealth, power, authority and other “good things” of life.
These things, these feelings, these aspirations, may militate against a positive sense of calling and self-actualisation. You may ask how.
A calling basically has to do with two things: fulfilling the purpose of the One who called me; and doing good for others, serving fellow human beings. Once the sense of self-actualisation goes beyond concern for others and submission to the One who called me, and I become the centre of everything, preoccupied only with my ego, or with “me, myself and I”, then the sense of self-actualisation has crossed the boundaries of a positive sense of purpose.
When the sense of self-actualisation has gone beyond what is an appropriate purpose, evils like greed, pride, exploitation of others to satisfy my own needs and desires, authoritarianism and even murder begin to dominate my life. My sense of purpose is no longer in tune with God’s purpose and will for me.
Self-actualisation has become a negative force that dominates my thinking, my decisions, my actions and my life.
In the next series of articles we will explore how different figures in the history of salvation either succeeded or failed to reconcile the sense of self-actualisation with God’s purpose for them. We shall begin next month with our First Parents, Adam and Eve.