Another Forty Days, Day 16–Living Our Purpose

Like many working adults, I wake most weekday mornings with a groan. I drag myself from sleep, hitting the snooze at least twice before finally shaking myself awake enough to throw back the covers, and swing my feet to the floor, switching on the light and unhooking the straps that bind my CPAP mask to my face, plopping the mask onto the bedside table. I shove my feet into my slippers and get to my feet, wandering out of my bedroom and down the stairs. I peer into the kitchen to be sure my coffee has finished brewing before heading into the bathroom to take care of a little business before coming back to the kitchen and preparing my massive mug of coffee. I head back upstairs, settle back into my bed, prop my lap desk across my legs, and begin writing in my journal.

I never used to be a morning person, or at least I didn’t think I was. I was more of a night owl, preferring to stay up late at night reading or writing or putzing. As a working adult, with much to do before I get to work, I’ve taken to rising around 5:00 a.m., a feat I’d not thought possible. Rising early has afforded me the opportunity to write in my journal each day, read from three inspirational daybooks, meditate, and exercise for about 15 minutes, before getting ready and heading to work. Every weekday on my 30 minute commute, I pass a sign announcing what the jackpot is for two big lotteries, and I think to myself how great it would be to win. Today they are at 140 and 155 million, almost tempting enough for me to plunk down a few dollars on each for the heck of it. Almost.

Like many working adults, I am grateful to have a job, but don’t love it. I remember the shocked expression on the face of one of my coworkers when I told her that if I won the lottery I would quit my job “in a New York minute.” I remember telling a group of colleagues that I was very good at my job, but I don’t love what I do; in fact most days I don’t much like it. Oh there are aspects of it that I appreciate, that are very gratifying and satisfying, but I don’t love any of it. And yet I know, with a fair degree of certainty, that I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing at this time.

It’s a strange position to be in, doing work that is intense and draining and yet so important, and to be in constant battle with myself because I wish with my whole heart to be doing something else. I wish there were no need for the work that I do, because it would mean that people cared about one another, that everyone was treated fairly, with dignity, love, and compassion. It would mean that everyone could live a good life, fully realizing their potential, and being accepted for exactly who they are and not reviled for who they are not. But because this is not so, I keep doing what I do, what I am–at least for this moment–called to do. I am content to be contributing where I am, helping people whenever and wherever I can.

If, during these 40 days, I spend more time thinking and writing about Jesus than usual, I don’t apologize for it. This is a Lenten blog, after all. Given that, I have to believe that Jesus probably didn’t love his job either. How hard it would be to reach out to and serve people that few people cared for: the poor, the sick, the religious and societal castoffs, fishermen and farmers, tax collectors and prostitutes. Everybody needed and wanted something from him. There must have been times he was tired of it all. And yet he knew he was doing exactly what he was meant to be doing in his time. He was called to heal the sick of body and of spirit, to bring hope to people who had little to hope for, to bring good news to people whose every day existence was challenging. He was living his purpose.

There was that story in the gospels about how when Jesus had taken himself away on a retreat to fast and pray, the evil one came to harass him. Knowing he was hungry, he said to Jesus, “If you’re the son of God, why don’t you turn these stones into bread and eat?” The evil one pitched all kinds of wild and tempting things to Jesus. After a while, Jesus told the evil one to go away, which he ultimately did. After all that, I’m not sure I’d want to come down from the mountain and dive right back into the maelstrom of life, of crowds of people wanting spiritual as well as literal food. But by the accounts we have of his life, Jesus did most things without comment or complaint. I could definitely learn a lot from his example in the work I do for and with people.

I have a long way to go before I can be like Jesus. All I can do is what many working adults do: get up, get myself together, and go do the best I can each day with what I have. At the end of the day, if I can say that I did my best, that I helped someone understand a little more, feel a little better for having been heard and seen, and extended myself with as much lovingkindness and compassion as I could, then it will have been a good day. It’s definitely worth getting up for each morning. And for that I am exceedingly grateful.

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