So I’m about to head to a small group for the high school ministry group Katie and I are involved with. In preparing for a discussion about creation and who we are and what that means in the face of a lot of scientific progression and advancement, it helped me to remember an analogy that my young life leader, Mike Strawbridge taught me. This isn’t a defense of Christian theology, but a simple truth if you believe in Christianity. Here’s how it goes:
Look around our world. A lot of what we use in our every day lives has a purpose. For this example, I’m going to take a hammer and a toothbrush. What do you do with a hammer? You hit things. Specifically, you use a hammer to hit nails into a wall so that you can hang up a picture, among other things. What do you do with a toothbrush? You clean your teeth. The bristles are designed to get into the nooks and crannies and provide our cleaning agent (toothpaste) with all the necessary opportunities to get grime and muck out of our teeth and their many crevices. Those two items have a PURPOSE.
So what if you mixed up those purposes?
A toothbrush for a hammer. Well, if you grabbed your handy toothbrush and went to work on nailing something into the wall… it might take a while. It might take more than a while. You may never succeed in actually getting it through the drywall and into a position that it would secure a picture frame. You’re not going to get very far.
A hammer for a toothbrush. Well, this is going to hurt. Put your toothpaste on and do your best not to crack those pearly whites. It’s hard not to cringe as we imagine how this experiment would go. A few broken teeth. Probably some blood. It’s going to hurt.
The point? More often than not, when we confuse our purpose… we’re either going to get hurt or not get very far. That really describes a lot of my life in high school. I didn’t quite know my purpose. I didn’t quite get that God had designed me a certain way, that Jesus had saved me, and the Holy Spirit wanted to work through me. I didn’t get that those things combined to give me a purposeful life. So I got hurt a lot. By other people, by myself, by the world. And then there were times where I failed or didn’t get very far. I felt like everything I did just didn’t work out. I put effort into things that ended up being fruitless.
It is incredibly life-changing to realize that God gives us a purpose. Now, because of sin, I still don’t always act according to my purpose. God has changed me from the inside out. He’s taken my heart of stone and made it a heart of flesh. I’m a new creation. But I also still war with my flesh. I struggle against desires and ideas that just don’t have anything to do with what my true purpose is. This idea is just to help frame why things so often go awry. I have a lot of friends that will ask about good people getting hurt. This isn’t a sure fire answer, but it does give some context. A lot of people get hurt because they confuse their purpose… Here are a few things that I think, all the way back to Adam, God purposed us to do:
1. We are given work- One of the first things Adam has to do? Name the animals. Take care of the garden. That’s why work can be so pleasing to us. We are designed to serve and work and labor (though not so much that it becomes an idol).
2. We are designed to be in a relationship with God- Adam got to walk through the garden with God. We get to have the holy spirit inside of us. We get to pray and talk and cry out to a God that is outside of time, but inside of our lives.
3. We are designed to bring God glory – Even though we are sinful, or maybe because we are sinful, our lives are a great testament to the working power and grace of Jesus. We mess up. We lie. We think selfishly. We do some bad things. God still accepts and loves us. Jesus dies for each and every deed. The Holy Spirit nudges away from continuing them. God uses our life to bring glory and praise to him.
4. We are supposed to love others- As Eve came into the world, God shows his loving design for our interaction with others. He gives us purpose through and in other people.
5. Writing blogs- Just kidding.
Anyways, I hope this was helpful. It’s not my original thought or idea, but it is one that has stuck with me. Sometimes, when I’m feeling hurt or insecure or like things are going wrong… it has been a helpful exercise to step back and say, “Well… am I messing up my purpose here? Am I going against the grain of what God designed me to be? Let’s see if we can figure this out.”