What’s My Purpose?

I, like most people, play a number of “roles.”

I’m a father.  Though my daughter and son are now mature, independent, fully-functioning adults, they still need me to be “Dad,” from time to time.  I’m glad.

I’m a husband.  On August 18, 1990, I promised to “love, honor, and cherish,” Kelly McFarlane, “forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”  For nearly 29 years, I’ve joyfully kept that vow – though, admittedly, Kelly Rains deserves to be honored and cherished MUCH more than I have/do.  And, I intend to keep that vow, and improve on it, “until we are parted by death.”

I’m a United Methodist Pastor.  When I was ordained by Bishop Hasbrouck Hughes, in June 1996, I was given pastoral authority for “Word, Sacrament, and Order.”

I’m a U.S. citizen, which requires obedience to a particular set of laws – including paying taxes!

Those are roles.  Important roles!  For the most part, they’re roles I’ve chosen, and am agreeably committed to.  But, take away the roles, the titles, the relationships, the responsibilities; who am I then?

Lots of people struggle with their sense of “identity” after they’re fired or retire, or lose a loved one, or become “empty nesters.”  Who are we when our roles are stripped away?

Take away my roles and relationships, and I’m still a tall, heterosexual, white, southern, middle-aged, American man.  I’m well-educated.  I’m solidly middle class – though that could quickly pass with the loss of a “paying” role!  I’m undeniably privileged.  I have a few talents and abilities.  I’ve accumulated some knowledge and experience.  Is that who I am?

Is that ALL I am?

MOST importantly, who does God say I am?

I wrestle with these questions, from time to time.  Actually, I wrestle with them a lot – perhaps more than the average person.  Not because I don’t know who I am.  I’m not having an identity crisis!  I wrestle, because I sincerely want to be who I’m uniquely created and called to be.  The wrestling is spiritual, for me.  Frankly, admittedly, it’s far easier to just go through the motions of “doing” whatever my current roles demand, or whatever is currently popular or acceptable.  But, when I cease the “doing,” for the sake of “being,” who am I, then?

Who did God create Vance Clifton Rains to “be”?

I’m currently in a time of transition.  In the next few weeks, I’ll move from South Florida, leaving my current role as the Senior Pastor of First Church Coral Springs, to return to Orlando – my hometown – to become the Lead Pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Orlando – my home church.

I’m going home.  But, I’ve been away for thirty years.  I’ve changed – JUST LOOK AT ME!  Home has changed.  The whole world has changed.  While much remains the same, MUCH MORE is different!

Currently, it feels like my head, heart, and body are simultaneously existing in two different places, and nowhere in particular.  I have duties and obligations in both places, as I loosen my grip here, and become increasingly engaged there.  But, I’m quickly becoming a “lame duck” here, and not much more than a “title,” there… yet.

We’re currently packing boxes, preparing to leave one house to take-up residence in another.  I’ll soon be sleeping in a different room, driving a different route, eating in different restaurants, working in a different office, relating to different people, engaging different relationships, keeping a different schedule, preaching in a different pulpit, performing similar pastoral functions and fulfilling similar expectations, yet in a VERY different context.

Difference.  Change.  Transition.  In the midst of so much change, who am I?  Do different demands, expectations, needs, patterns, schedules, relationships, geography change who I essentially am?

No.

As I’ve wrestled with these questions – actually, for MANY years – I’ve prayerfully developed an ever-evolving list of what I believe my uniquely God-given purpose includes –  regardless of locale, title, role, or context.  This is who, I believe, God has created and called me to be, regardless of where I am, who I’m with, what I’m “doing,” or whatever titles I do or don’t possess.

Like I said, these statements are ever-evolving, as I believe God’s revelation in our lives isn’t complete, until we’re dead.  Hopefully, we’re always growing in our self-awareness and perception of God at work within us, and around us, opening ever-expanding vistas of spiritual growth and self-knowledge.

So, at least for this moment, I understand my purpose to be…

  • To never stop becoming ALL God created me to be…
  • To deeply know and be known, to deeply love and be loved…
  • To soul-fully embody divine peace, love, and unity, inviting others to do the same…
  • To honor, cultivate and protect ALL of God’s good creation…
  • To partner in God’s work of healing and renewing ALL that is broken, beginning with me…
  • To be a revolution, a revelation, a reflection, and a refraction of God’s wonder, glory and goodness…
  • To guide others to know, love and serve our creating, healing, sustaining God….

Please note:  none of this requires a title, a position, or a paycheck.  None of this is dependent on a particular role.  None of this depends upon a particular geographical location.  None of this requires the official approval or sanctioning of authority, beyond the One who made me and gave/gives me my purpose for “being.”

I’ll be the first to admit, I fall tragically short of consistently fulfilling my purpose…

  • My “becoming” is pathetically slow…
  • Rather than knowing and loving, I often introvert and withdraw…
  • I embody far more anxiety, self-obsession, and resentment, than peace, love and unity…
  • I’m wasteful and careless with creation…
  • I’m far too content/complacent with my own brokenness, to notice or care about the brokenness of others…
  • I reflect the world, more than God…
  • I fulfill religious roles, duties, and obligations, more than actually guiding people toward God…

No doubt, friends will say I’m being too self-critical… again.  Thank you.  I am particularly good at that!  Hopefully, I do live my purpose more than I’m consciously aware.  Hopefully.  I’m just so painfully aware of how often I DON’T.  I’m consciously aware of both – who I’m created and called to be, and how often I’m not that at all.

So, what’s your purpose?  What are your particular “roles,” and how does your sense of purpose align with your list of commitments, obligations, and duties?  What is your identity?  Who are you, when all of the external trappings are stripped away?  What does it look like for you to “be,” and not simply “do” what’s expected of you?

What’s your purpose?

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