“Purpose” is both a noun and a verb. The noun purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. The verb purpose is a transitive verb; “To intend or resolve to perform or accomplish.”
I have a good grasp of the noun purpose. I am pretty good at reading between the lines to find the deeper meaning or purpose in letters, songs, and even in difficult situations. I have a clear sense of who I am and my purpose in this life. But it is that transitive verb which oftentimes escapes my grasp. I struggle with the intention and resolve to accomplish my purpose.
For as long as I can remember, my Mom gave me purpose or at the least the hope of a purpose when she told me that she knew from my birth that God had a special plan for my life. I was the only one of her eight children that almost died at birth because the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. That story led me to seek the God who created and indeed in a very personal way, saved me for this special purpose.
The discovery of my purpose was not met with angel choirs and bright lights or tunnels leading to a distant land. I discovered my purpose sitting in my 8th grade English class. Despite the fact that it was a public school, my teacher had a poster hanging on the bulletin board in the front of the class. It was a picture of a beautiful sunset over the waters with these words from Matthew 5:14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does one light a lamp and put it under a basket, but rather on the lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before all in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Those words resonated deep within me and I knew that I was created to be a light, not, just any light, but God’s light to the world. Later that same year, I was given a card with the Irish meaning of my name, Eileen; “shining light”. Okay, God, I got it.
One would think that discovering your purpose as a young teenager would seal the deal for a lifetime of focused determination that carried me through the years and help me to hit the ground running into young adulthood. But the tumultuous emotions and difficulties of those teenage years caused me to lose sight of that purpose until I was staring it in the face.
In search of hope and to regain my purpose, in my junior year of high school, I started attending a Catholic prayer meeting. The meeting was uplifting, characterized by charismatic, spontaneous praise and worship songs. As I loved to sing from a very young age, the songs unlocked my heart and my voice and transported me to a place of intimacy with God. It was during one of those worship times that I had a vision, a picture in my mind. It was very clear. I was standing out in the middle of a vast white, almost cloud-like land. I looked down at my cupped hands and in them sat a beautiful full-blossomed rose, just the bloom with no stem or thorns. I felt someone touch my hands and direct me to lift them up towards the sky. As I raised my hands, rays of brilliant yellow light streamed down from them, extending in every direction, as far as my eyes could see. I didn’t want the vision or this experience to end, but the voice of one of the leaders broke through this experience, ushering me back to the room. He said something I will never forget.
“This little rose has become a light to the nations,” said the leader. I had to steady myself to stay on two feet as I heard him speak these words again. Although the leader had another purpose for sharing those words, God used them to confirm the life-changing vision I had just experienced.
Divine purpose took root in my mind and heart in those later teenage years and helped to shape my character, my morality, decisions and especially the choice to marry my husband. It helped form the foundation of my career goals and parenting and most of all my faith.
I realized early on that although I have been blessed with a clear vision of the purpose of my life, (the noun), sometimes that transitive verb thing escapes me. The intent and resolve to accomplish my purpose gets easily lost in the muck and the mire of my life.
Could my life as a wife and mother, parent and caregiver to a very special child really be the realization of my purpose to be a “light to the nations?” As I spend countless days at my daughter’s side in hospital rooms and years advocating for special education; could this really be a part of the purpose written in my heart?
How can I accomplish what I intend to do as a writer, as a speaker and wellness coach, when the ongoing struggles of post-traumatic stress deplete my adrenals and threaten to overtake me? When will I have the time to write the book that will serve as the lampstand for God’s light?
All these questions and concerns regarding my purpose are put to rest when I look in Johanna’s sparkling blue eyes.
From around a corner in CVS, as I watch my 16-year-old, beautiful, brain-injured daughter, proudly pick up her own prescriptions, which she worked so hard to order over the phone, I experience the resolve of purpose. There I intend to spend my life making certain that this little Johanna Rose in my hands, extends her light to the nations. My intention is often accomplished by just holding her when the pain is too intense, or by teaching her how to sing a song, or by driving her to Lenny’s so she can proudly pick up a pizza all on her own.
Though it has taken longer than I intended to write that book, or to give those profound talks to crowds of captivated audiences, I know my purpose is being fulfilled. One word, one touch, one smile, one day at a time, I live my life on purpose, with purpose and there let God’s light shine.
Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.com/40DaysToFocus.