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Not my purpose

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Yesterday I almost bought a major furniture makeover project. My husband Jack and I have been looking for a piece to fill a blank wall in our dining area for a few weeks now. After checking furniture prices at several stores, I decided to look on Facebook marketplace. Within minutes I found what looked like the perfect piece for us.

We drove an hour with high hopes, furniture blankets, tie down straps and cash, only to find that the pictures did not do the piece justice. The photos presented by the seller didn’t show the brush marks, chips, and the original stain bleeding through the white paint of the “professionally refinished” surfaces. But as a piece of furniture, the shape and function was exactly what we wanted, so I began to think of the steps I could take to make it look beautiful on the surface.

Remove the hardware,

sand it down,

prime it,

paint again,

finish with a clear coat,

reassemble . . .

All these steps were doable and I had the workspace in the basement. But another, inner voice said, “Is that what you are called to do with your time?” When I looked at Jack’s face, I could tell he would have liked to voice that question himself.

“This is a big project, and while I think I could make it look very nice, it’s not what I’m called to be doing right now,” was my answer to both the internal question and the look in my husband’s eyes. And we drove the hour home again.

In midlife, we become more and more aware of the passing of time and of our own shrinking time horizon. There can be several responses to this realization: we can shut down and stop living out of fear, we can try to pack all the experiences we haven’t had yet into the time we have left, or we can bring our purpose into sharper focus and curate our most favorite activities so that they fit into our daily lives in a way that leads to thriving. If we choose the third option, we will have to learn to say “No” to good and enjoyable things that don’t match with our midlife purpose.

One key to identifying our purpose and knowing when to turn down even good and noble opportunities is abiding or staying in fellowship with Christ. In John 15, Jesus reminds His disciples of this:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.

Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches.

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;

apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5, NIV

We remain in Christ when we practice daily prayer and Bible reading, when we seek to love God first and foremost, when we cultivate supportive friendships with other believers who can encourage us, and when we pursue personal holiness (this is definitely an exercise in “No”). And when we remain close to Christ, He can reveal His will to us and we can become more and more fruitful.

Are you struggling to find your purpose? Pray about it, midlife friend, and continue abiding in Christ. Say “No” to those opportunities or activities that are clearly not your purpose. Make space in your life. And wait for God to reveal His purpose to you.

You are not too old to make a difference, and you don’t have to be too busy to make time for meaningful contributions to your community, your family, or your church. Exercise the power of “No” and in the empty spaceMask God to show you your midlife mission. He will!


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