At my Youth Group last night we started talking about purpose. More specifically, is it hard to believe that you have one? And what makes it hard, since to be honest, most of us would agree that it is.
It’s always been easier for me, my parents raised me and my siblings to believe God has plans for our lives. They used to pray with us every night about that.
Even I had to admit, however, that it’s gotten harder over time. It’s hard not to get jaded by the world as you get older. The older people get, have you ever noticed, the less they tend to believe they can accomplish anything big, and the less they want to.
You might have heard the song “7 years” it’s a great song, very moving, and one of it’s fine points is the shifting attitude as the singer talks about getting older. He goes from a friendly kid, to a kid trying to be edgy and conquer the world, to an idealistic twenty year old, and then looking ahead, he recognizes that come thirty, things will start to seem like the highlight was in the past and he just hopes he’ll have friends still. And that he’ll be able tot each his children. Then he leaps ahead to when he’ll be sixty.
Looking ahead to old age, the singer has two or three profound thoughts. The first is that you remember life and then your life becomes a better one. This could be a reference to heaven, or to old age maybe being better in some ways than youth. His other thought is that he doesn’t want to be stone cold, but have children around to make him remember that kind of hopefulness he had once.
As you age and lose your energy and drive, being content with a family life seems appealing, and it’s not necessarily wrong either. For some that is their purpose. The people who go through mid life crisis’es feel differently though.
Even the people I know who didn’t have an outright midlife crisis definitely struggled with knowing their youth was gone and wondering if they were accomplishing anything with their lives.
My recent experiences have led me to believe that there is one huge factor in how we lose our sense of purpose, and it only gets worse with age. I think that factor is LOSS.
Something about losing something or someone important to us shakes us up. Even if you go numb, there’s a part of your mind that is reeling from realizing how little control you have. Since we automatically base our sense of purpose in what we think we can control (Think “Wait for It” from Hamilton) feeling out of control makes us wonder if we can do anything.
Realizing that young people can die just as easily as old made me question my age as any safeguard against having a wasted life. While realizing that older people can live a long time and not really learn anything about love or purpose made me question if getting older will help me be wiser, or will it just make me more cynical? It already has in some ways.
I wouldn’t say I’ve lost my ideals, but I tend not to get fired up about them like I used to. I tend to want to fight less over them. What I want more now is to know I can do well what I do, and to have people around who love me.
Yet I can’t get rid of that fiery side of me. I’m a born fighter, I fight whether I intend to or not.
Where does that leave me? And you, I know I’m talking to someone reading this.
The first step toward a Loss not defeating us and our purpose is admitting that our purpose never had anything to do with what we could control. Some people think we control our own destiny, I say that’s only partly true. We’re going to end up in some places whether we like it or not, all that we control is whether we let God use those times to help us fulfill His purpose for our lives, or we let ourselves become purposeless, dragged around by the breeze.
I had no control over ending up living in someone else’s house for two years. And that really bothered me for a long time, sometimes I still wish I could control it. Yet I chose not to give in and let that make me a vegetable, just going through the motions of living. I believed God had a purpose in bringing me here. I still try to have control, probably too much, but I don’t have the reins of my life.
Aging is tough on our resolve to live well and live bigger than ourselves. We realize how little we control as we get older. We don’t singularly control who runs our country (in other countries, the common person controls it not at all), or what taxes we pay, or where we live, or how well our business does. We try, but there are always factors that do not depend on us. That should make us humble and grateful for other people’s help, often it makes us despairing.
There are plenty of older people who are exceptions to this rule, and I’m glad of it. I’m more scared that younger people are giving into despair far more often than the old are.
Don’t let loss shake your faith in having a purpose. Even short lives can be bright and powerful. It may be true that every day we walk out the door is a fresh risk, but that means every day can be a chance to do something brave and meaningful. If we simply do not let ourselves lose our confidence.
Until next time–Natasha.