I pray a lot over my kids. I pray for their salvation. I pray for them to be healthy. I pray for them to find the right spouse. I pray for them to be safe, be strong, be smart, be kind. But perhaps more than anything, I pray for them to discover and own their purpose for living.
It’s not exactly an uncommon prayer – I can think of other parents who pray the same thing for their children – but it’s an uncommonly strong desire of mine that they find themselves sooner rather than later. I don’t want them walking vacantly through their lives, wondering what they’re meant to do, only coming to discover their purpose and passion at a late age when changing their lives to accomodate their purpose is hard. I say that from experience. I pray for them out of that experience.
But sometimes, if I’m honest with myself, I wonder if every life has a purpose. If everyone is meant to do something with the time they have on earth. I’ve grown up hearing that each life does have a purpose; I’ve made it a point to study the Scriptures that reveal that purpose; I’ve spent hours exhorting people to find that purpose and fulfill their God-given reason for being. And yet still I occasionally wonder: does every life really have a purpose?
If the answer is no, then my prayers for my kids is a bit vain. in fact, if the answer is no, then my life is possibly vain – after all, who’s to say that what I’ve discovered as my purpose isn’t really just my feeble attempt to give meaning to life that’s ultimately meaningless? That my purpose isn’t just me manufacturing something to give my life direction so I could feel as grounded as those people who actually do have a purpose?
This sounds stupid. I know. But I’m getting somewhere with it. Just hold on.
In the end, thinking about whether life is meaningless or meaningful isn’t really a question. I believe, and am backed by Scripture, that each life has a purpose. The ancient Christians believed this too, and built it into the first question of the Westminster Catechism:
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
We exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That’s our purpose. Each and every person is meant – created – so God would be glorified. That’s an awesome thought.
And it’s part of what I’m praying for my kids. That they’ll learn who they are in Christ, learn those things about themselves that makes them unique among his creation, and learn how to bring glory to God by being the fullest expression of themselves. Or to be more concrete: that my kids would find those things that they are good at, excel at those things, and bring God glory through the effort.
Jon loves to build. Ella loves to sing. Jon loves playing games and solving puzzles. Ella loves creating imaginary worlds with words and illustrations. Might those interests fall by the wayside as they grow up? Certainly. But they might also be the very things that God gifted them to do in this life, things that – in their doing – will bring God glory that no other person can bring Him.
Does that mean they’ll be famous? No.
But it means they’ll be fulfilled. Which is what I’m really praying for anyway. It’s what I want for my life, and for anyone who walks the face of the earth: to be fulfilled by being who God made them to be. Fathers, poets, politicians, teachers, firemen, soldiers, chefs, nurses, trainers, managers, pilots, preachers, singers, servers, and saints – plus every person in between. All living their lives to the fullest to bring glory to God.
Does it mean they’ll never encounter hardship or heartache? No.
But it means that when they are tested, they’ll remember in the correct context that God works things out for our good (Romans 8:28), that He uses our life circumstances to help us achieve our purpose – bringing Him glory. See, we tend to take the glory for ourselves, even when we’re well-intentioned. Humility suffers at the hand of prosperity, and life has this way of bringing us back down too earth. It’s unpleasant to say, but all too often God only gets glory when we cannot have it for ourselves. We have to be reminded, sometimes frequently, that the glory belongs to Him alone.
So I pray for my kids. That they’ll learn these lessons early. That they’ll approach life humbly, and with great appreciation for the blessings that carry them each day. I pray that they’ll learn from my life that chasing after God may entail heartache and trial, but it will always produce God’s glory and our greatest joy.
And in typing that, I think I understand why I came to my purpose so late: in order to show my children what it means to live that way.
To God be the glory.