Purpose. Meaning. I think it’s the great mystery in life. When you grow up in church, and you’re in youth group and stuff, they always talking about “Finding God’s Purpose For Your Life” (aka “calling”). Some people are all like “Yeah I’m gonna be a missionary! Or I’m gonna be the godliest Egyptologist ever!” Me? No clue. In fact, the only thing I knew I wanted out of life was to be a parent. I think I’ve pretty much got that going for me…but now what? I’ve got a job and I’m happy where that’s going. But I think purpose is something different altogether. To me it’s that thing…not necessarily your job…just the thing that drives you. The thing that keeps the gears turning in your head.
A couple years ago I read a book called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller. It talked about how life is a story, with characters (you and the people you meet), a plot (your life), conflict (all your problems), etc. Miller talks about how you can live a better story by making it one that others would love to read. He gives an example that no one wants to see a movie about a dude whose biggest goal in life is to own a Volvo…no one will cheer when he eventually buys it. This book made me think a lot about the power of people, words, stories, influences, and experiences. After reading the book I signed up for an email list from Donald Miller and I got a really great one the other day. Here is pretty much everything in that email:
Years ago a psychologist named Viktor Frankl stood up to Sigmund Freud. Freud was teaching what man wanted most in life was pleasure. But Frankl believed man wasn’t seeking pleasure as much as he was seeking a deep sense of meaning. In fact, he went on to say:
I believe Frankl was right, and I think it’s obvious. Everybody around us is seeking pleasure, but pleasure rarely satisfies. In fact, the most contented people I know have found something more satisfying than pleasure, they’ve found a humble sense of gratitude and are actively participating in work that is difficult, beautiful and good.
Viktor Frankl spent most of his life studying the mystery of meaning, and amazingly, he came up with a prescription for how we can experience it ourselves.
His prescription was remarkably simple:
1. Have a project you’re working on that requires your unique skills and abilities. And preferably a project that helps others.
2. Share your experiences within the context of safe, loving relationships.
3. Find a redemptive perspective on your suffering and challenges.
This email really got me thinking about purpose and meaning as it relates to my life. A lot of times we mistakenly look for purpose in work. Or they try to find it in pleasure and hobbies. Nothing’s wrong with hobbies and work, but I’m starting to see my purpose as different than that. I’m starting to think that my purpose springs from being a dad: advocating for my son AND other heart kids out there, while using my experiences to help others who are going through the same thing. You see, I started this blog after a night where I couldn’t sleep well because I was bothered by the thought that there wasn’t much out there for heart dads. So after debating with myself, I started this blog and I’m glad I did. I’ve been able to interact with lots of people through the comments section: people who have been helped and that makes me happy. If you give support you get support in return and that’s the name of the game. That’s what it’s all about for me. I want to be part of the conversation of helping heart kids get great care, helping them in school, helping them with feeds, helping them with resources. So that no one facing this frightening journey has to feel like they’re alone or receiving lackluster care. It gives me purpose, because it’s not about me anymore.
I think if Nolan was born perfectly healthy, that would be nice, I’m not gonna lie. But there are days where I thank God for opening my eyes. This road has helped me be more compassionate, more kind, more helpful…and there’s still so much to learn on the way. Nolan will continue to face a lot of challenges along the way…but I’ve got his back…the same for all my kids. It’s my job to fight for him until he’s old enough to fight right alongside me. Life has new meaning when you make it about others. Booker T. Washington once said, “If you want to life yourself up, lift up someone else,” and I believe that to be 100% true.