“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman
A couple years ago, I realized I didn’t know myself very well. I had spent my first thirty-one years filling up my time with things I had to do—school, work, responsibilities—leaving no room to even consider what I loved to do. Especially after my second kiddo was born, thinking about myself seemed like a luxury reserved for those with time to spare.
It turns out, no one has extra time.
There I was, fully immersed in the precious, exhausting, beautiful, tedious season of raising babies, struggling most days to survive the sleep deprivation and monotony, let alone to find meaning in my moments. I knew I was in the thick of my calling for that season, yet my heart ached almost physically for something more, for a place to use my God-given gifts and passion.
It wasn’t until a friend lent me a book that I was able to put words to the tension I felt between embracing my present reality and discovering my unique purpose. I found myself in the first pages of Freefall to Fly, as Rebekah Lyons shared the story of a woman who had sent her last child off to college. “She’d taught her daughter everything she knew. Spilled out everything she had. Fighting back tears, she said, ‘I’m empty, and she’s full.’”
She had lost herself in the midst of her life.
My eyes brimmed over at the realization that my one and only life starts today—not someday when things are easier, not when I have more flexibility in my schedule, not when my kids are out of the house, not when we have more money. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to live fully in the one life I have.
I don’t want to look back at my life and wonder what it could have been like to fulfill my purpose. I want to live the fullest possible life today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my years. I want to use all of who I am to help others become all they were created to be.
So, what makes you come alive?
It seems like an easy enough question—but in an age of frenzied busyness and constant distraction, it can be difficult listen to the heartbeat of our own souls. It takes time, sweet time, to quiet ourselves enough to reflect on how we’re made. And it takes courage to let our inner longings bubble to the surface as we remember the dreams we’ve carried since childhood and the pain that has shattered our hearts.
Many of us chase an elusive goal, searching high and low for that one thing that we were made to do for the rest of our lives. But calling is not a static goal, it’s a constant journey toward our Creator. It is our pursuit of the Maker of heaven and earth that leads us to discover the things we were made to do, one courageous yes at a time.
You were made on purpose, with a purpose that only you can fulfill in this world.
What are you uniquely and intentionally crafted to do? Who are you called to love as only you can? Where is God inviting you today to invest the passion and talent he’s given you?
Start with your story—the unique experiences, hopes, and heartaches you’ve lived that have shaped who you are today. Pen and paper in hand, remembering and reflecting, create space to allow your truest self to bubble to the surface. Because remembering our story helps us discover who we were created to become.
Here are a few questions (borrowed from and inspired by the resources below) to get you started as you consider how you are uniquely designed—give yourself freedom to reflect on your life over time, asking others for help as you process:
- Uncover your passion – What were your earliest dreams? What is the thing you could do for hours as a kid? What makes you feel most alive today?
- Remember your story – What is your unique story? What are the most impactful/memorable moments from your life? What themes do you see emerging as you remember?
- Find your people – Who are the people you can share your deepest desires/fears/wounds/passions with? Who will cheer you on as your journey toward becoming fully alive? How can you invite them to join you on your journey toward a life of meaning?
- Name your gifts – What natural abilities have others commented on? Write down several of your talents. Feel free to ask for help from family and friends!
- Identify your burden – What has broken your heart? What keeps you up at night? What are you most afraid of? Where have you experienced the most healing in your own life?
- Open your hands – Ask God, where might you be calling me to reveal you in the world? Is there an action step you can take today to follow the nudge of the Lord?
Our calling is not about us and what we are doing—it’s about God and what he is doing in and through us. The journey toward purpose is a gradual discovery of how God is revealing himself through our one life. He invites us to follow him into new depths of joy, freedom, and intimacy by saying yes to the next thing he puts in front of us. One step at a time.
For additional resources, I’ve found these books to be immensely helpful in my own journey: