When we begin to talk about purpose, the waters get murky rather quickly. Women start talking about children being grown and out of the house, or not having children at all; about being divorced, or whether their husband comes to church; about pleasing others, and serving the people they love; about finding a job they like better, or keeping track of everyone’s schedules at home, or the ministries they are involved in. It’s fairly clear that for us, our sense of identity and purpose springs from our relationships with others and the work that we do.
No wonder we feel pulled every which way by people’s expectations and emotions, and wear ourselves out trying to do everything we see on Pinterest and Facebook. In this comparison game, it looks like just about everyone out there is accomplishing more and living bigger and brighter than we are, doing more for their families and earning more approval because of it. Bring up the question of purpose in life, then, and right away women feel either frustrated and overwhelmed, or just downright confused.
But what if our purpose is much simpler than all of that– and much less subject to changes of circumstance? When we look back to the Beginning of everything we know, to find answers, we find God there already, exercising vast power and intellect and creative design to bring everything into existence. We even catch a glimpse of His personality in what He makes and how He goes about it… the order and complexity of His process…the harmony and cooperation between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… and the variety and detail and beauty of the results. And with each stage of creation, God names it and tells its purpose– what He has in mind for it. It’s like a parent, attaching labels to the world for a toddler, so she can begin to understand what she is seeing and experiencing. At the climax of the story, God fashions the centerpiece for this world He has made: humanity. And once again, with the name, He speaks of purpose. “Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over…all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
The word used for image is the same one that will be used later to speak of idols. And just as the rock and clay carved by man’s hands was meant to reflect the image of some super-powerful being, so our clay was fashioned by God’s hands to reflect His own likeness. Our first purpose was to be a mirror that reflected God’s glorious Person. The eternal souls breathed into us, and what we call personality– our intellect, creativity, free will, full range of emotion, understanding of morality, humor, love, compassion, appreciation for beauty, verbal skills– all these are only shadow reflections of an infinite incomprehensible Personality. Every human that was ever born, in all our individual differences, reflect and express different aspects of one great Creator.
This is a purpose that doesn’t end, or change, regardless of our roles or duties in life. Sin dampens it, dims and mars it– but once we are made whole and straight in Jesus Christ, we are freed to become who we were created to be, to live as a unique mirror to His likeness. We can hardly blame the Church-Planter Paul for breaking into praise and worship so often in his letters to the early believers, as he told them about what God had done through Christ, and how great His purposes for us. He taught them that the fitting response was to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
Figuring out how to reflect God’s image within our particular relationships and circumstances is what gets tricky, and will take a lifetime of learning from Him. So this is our faith-journey, to run the race we have been given– in this family, in this body, in this job, in this time and place, with these strengths and weaknesses, amid the consequences of our own choices and the choices of those around us. Here and now, to spend time with Him and learn Who He Is, so we can reflect His image well. This is our purpose and immense privilege on this earth.
And no one can take it away from us, not even our own failures, because He will use every last thing (good, bad, ugly, sad, or wonderful as it is) to accomplish His purpose in us.
“I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:16-18)
“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” (C.S. Lewis)