There was once an cheerful old man who would ask the same question of just about everyone he fell into conversation with: What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?
He never asked the expected questions such as “What do you do for a living?” or “How are you?” It was always What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?”
It was an unsettling question for people who had wrapped up their identity in what they do, the things they have, and how they are perceived by others.
Not that the old man was aggressive in his questioning, he had a congenial nature and always asked the question with a smile and a wink. He was delighted by a woman who answered, “I'm doing a good job raising my three children,” and a cabinetmaker who said, “I believe in good workmanship and practice it;” and by a woman who said, “I started a bookstore and it is the best bookstore for miles around.”
The old man explained to an acquaintance, “I don't really care how they answer, I just want to put the thought into their minds. They should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for me, but for themselves. That's what important.”
We spend a great deal of time trying to find our purpose in life. Some people live their whole lives and never find it. But the answer is right in front of us, God has given us a purpose and written it in our hearts. He has equipped us with a unique set of gifts, talents and abilities that will allow us to fulfill that purpose. The problem is that we have buried it under our wants, desires, and selfishness.
God knows and cares about each one of us, even all the hairs on our head are counted. He wants us to discover the purpose that he has put each one of us here to fulfill. He cannot simply tell us or we would place no value on it, we have to find it ourselves. But to find that purpose we have to look in the last place we want to go, deep in our hearts.
Joseph Campbell once said, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
Our hearts hold our purpose, deep down we all know this, it is our own fear that prevents us from looking for it.
So instead of asking ourselves “why am I here?” or “what's my purpose in life?” perhaps we should ask a different question. “What have you done, or what can you do, that you believe in and are proud of?”
When we are called to account for how we have used our gifts and talents, what will we offer to God that we believed in? What did we do that made a difference in the life of someone else? How did we change our little corner of the world for the better?