by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Nearly twenty years ago, a book came out entitled, The Purpose Driven Life. It became a huge success because the idea spoke to a deep need and desire in each of us; we all want to know our purpose. We want to know how we fit in — how we can make a difference. We want to feel our contribution is valuable.
We often view our purpose as our profession … what we do for a living. Our profession can be what we get paid for, or what we do without pay, which can be just as important, such as being a parent.
I kept a Mother’s Day card my son gave me a few years back in which he told me how important I was to him and the important lessons I had taught. It said…
Mom, I can’t imagine what life would be like without you. I’d probably be eating candy I got from a stranger, talking with my mouth full, and waving around sharp objects while I sit too close to the TV in yesterday’s underwear.
Of course, this is supposed to be a funny Mother’s Day card, but it does highlight the important jobs we do without recognizing them.
Our work is part of our purpose, but it is not all of it. Things will always change. Our jobs get downsized at work and even at home, as our children grow up and no longer need us reminding them about yesterday’s underwear. And that can make us feel uncertain and purposeless in this world.
I think the plethora of reality television shows is a symptom of a deeper societal desire. Reality shows propel the everyday Joe and Jane into stardom, and we live vicariously through their experiences. It seems to give our lives purpose, as we call in to vote for our favorite singer on The Voice or gather at viewing parties to rally for our favorite Bachelor.
I used to shake my head in annoyance at the overwhelming number of reality shows until I realized the deeper purpose of their appeal. These shows speak to our longing to make a difference in the world…to be purposeful. But, we need a purpose that is eternal. Otherwise, when the reality show is over, we feel empty until the next installment.
That is why it is so important for us to have a spiritual path. A spiritual path gives us purpose and direction that is “in the world but not of it.” It has been said that we are mind, body, and spirit. As we start our day, we plan our schedules and set our goals. We make sure our hair is combed, our clothes are on, and everything is zipped, but we will walk around with little thought of our soul’s spiritual yearning. We would never leave the house looking a mess, but we don’t think twice about leaving our minds a mess. We think no one will see, but the world we experience is the direct result of our unmade, purposeless minds.
In the Bible, we are told a very important truth: “Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and everything else will be given unto you.” This thought answers the struggles of the world and sets us in line with our real purpose. In A Course in Miracles, it says, “But seek this [the Kingdom of Heaven] only, because you can find nothing else. There is nothing else. God is All in all in a very literal sense. All being is in Him Who is all Being. You are therefore in Him since your being is His.” (T-7:IV.7) Therefore, when we start inviting God’s presence into everything we do, making that our purpose, we will see the world as we know it begin to transform. The world will be transformed into its true purpose, and so will we.
Remember the sci-fi movie thriller The Matrix? In it, our world has been taken over by computers and humanity is on the verge of extinction. Mankind is looking for the “One” who will be their “messiah.” Well, the actor Keanu Reeves comes along as Neo (clever how if you move the letters around it spells “one”), and he ends up being the “One” they are looking for. But, for Neo to become the “one,” HE must realize that he IS the “One.”
In the final scene, when he realizes his true identity and purpose, the Matrix (the thing that holds the computer world of control together) begins to dismantle itself. Neo doesn’t have to necessarily destroy it (although we do have the big movie fight scene for the sake of ratings); it falls apart all by itself.
This is analogous to our experience in this world. A Course in Miracles reminds us over and over again we are not here to change the world but to change our minds about the purpose of the world. Once we do that, the world as we know it will be no more. It will be transformed by the power of God, the power of healing love. The Course tells us what the purpose of the world is when it says…
Forget not that the healing of God’s Son is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has. Until you see the healing of the Son as all you wish to be accomplished by the world, by time and all appearances, you will not know the Father nor yourself. For you will use the world for what is not its purpose, and will not escape its laws of violence and death. Yet it is given you to be beyond its laws in all respects, in every way and every circumstance, in all temptation to perceive what is not there, and all belief God’s Son can suffer pain because he sees himself as he is not. (T-24.VI.4)
I truly believe this is one of the most powerful, straightforward, and practical passages in the Course. If we do not use the world for the purpose that the Holy Spirit sees in it, which is to heal ourselves and those we think of or come in contact with, then we will be misusing the world and will suffer under its laws of violence and death. Where are we living right now? Do we see violence and death all around us? Or, have we changed our purpose about the world? We have the ability to escape the world’s laws entirely, but we must change our minds about the purpose of the world and how we fit in.
We think we are the ugly duckling when we are actually the beautiful swan. If you remember the children’s story, the baby swan is accidentally left with the duck family to be raised. Not knowing he is a swan, the poor fella never fits in. His feet look funny, and his neck is too long. His life is one of suffering and sadness because he is trying to be what he is not. It is only when he finally sees the other swans that he realizes he is not a duck after all.
We are trying to be “ducks,” when we are actually “swans.” We are trying to fit into the world and make it work. But it will never work since the world was made to exclude God and the awareness of our spiritual purpose.
You might be wondering, “Does that mean that if I function in this world, i.e., have a job, have a relationship, make money, etc. that I am excluding God?” No, not at all. We must be “in this world but not of it” to truly make a difference. We can do everything in this world, but with a new and revitalized purpose.
It is time for us to live like secret agents. We do everything that everyone else does – get up every morning, make meals, take care of our kids, go to work, put money away in a savings account, pay our bills, etc., but we do it with a deeper purpose. Knowing that we are nowhere by accident and that our “real” purpose is to heal the Son of God (which is everyone we come in contact with), gives us great purpose to get out of bed every day! The world may tell you this is a “mission impossible,” but, to God, it is a very possible mission. Actually it is a “mission inevitable,” because it is God’s Will that we heal, and there is nothing else but His Will.
A Course in Miracles reminds us of the purpose of our learning when it says…
The purpose of your learning is to enable you to bring the quiet with you, and to heal distress and turmoil. This is not done by avoiding them and seeking a haven of isolation for yourself.
You will yet learn that peace is part of you, and requires only that you be there to embrace any situation in which you are. (W-r.I.In.4:4)
Our purpose is not to deny the world or our place in it, but to walk through this world bringing the peace of God into every situation where we find ourselves. How do we do that? By embracing every situation in which we find ourselves, realizing our deeper purpose, and remembering that we are not alone.
Therefore, as God’s Presence leads the way in our lives, “every relationship becomes a lesson in love.” (T-15.V.4:6) For He“sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home.” (T-5.III.11)
It is time for us to reevaluate the world and the things of the world. In the midst of tragedies, we see opportunities to express God’s healing love instead of a reason to sit in feelings of pity and powerlessness. It is time for us to accept our true purpose and ask God what he would have us do for His beloved Child.
I remember a story told by a member of the Center’s study group many years ago. Bob shared that he had finally asked his adult son to move out of the house. His son had been on his own for quite a while, but needed a little help during a tough time, and Bob offered him a place to stay. After a few months, Bob felt it was time for his son to be on his own again. There were hard feelings.
When the son finally moved out, he did some things that were not very kind – in fact, downright nasty. Bob found, in his son’s haste to leave, he left his laundry in the dryer. It was important laundry since it included a lot of his work clothes. Bob’s first thought was “payback,” so he put the clothes in a trash bag and put them in the trash can. That night, however, Bob could not sleep. It didn’t feel right. The next morning before work, Bob took the trash bag out of the trash and put it on the front porch with a note saying, “You left these in the dryer. I thought you might need them. Love, Dad.”
The world would say Bob needed to teach his son a lesson, and quite frankly he did: He taught him a lesson in love. That lesson will transform the world because Bob joined with the Presence of God and sought a deeper purpose.
There is a wonderful poem that has been attributed to Mother Teresa, because it was found in 1997 on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta, India. But, she did not write the poem. It was a rendering adapted from a poem by Kent Keith, who wrote it in 1968. However, do you think it would have had as much influence were it not attributed to Mother Teresa? And, for some reason, Kent Keith didn’t seem to mind “anyway.” The message is what was important.
Do it Anyway
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered…
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives…
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies…
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you…
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight…
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous…
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow…
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough…
Give the world the best that you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God…
It was never between you and them anyway.
We are here for a deeper purpose. We need to move past the pettiness of the world and hold on to the truth. We are here to heal the Son of God, and we are given a chance every day in every holy encounter to do just that. And, when we do, we will experience a purpose driven life.