My entire life has been a journey to self-discovery. I am only now coming to an awareness that I need to know who I am. However, I have unconsciously sought the person that I needed and should be all of my life. We all, most of us, have wondered at some point in our lives, who we were and what are we here for. What is my purpose in life?
As we ponder the age old question about this life, often we allow what we do as an occupation to define the answer. This is often sufficient for many of us, if we have allowed ourselves to do by profession the thing that brings us peace and joy and happiness. For those who have chosen to do what they love, the question of life is not so pressing upon them. However, when you have lived a lifetime of feeling like you are at the “grind stone” and work is just to meet life’s demands, there is usually something left unanswered.
I retired early at age 55. I had a really good job. I can’t say that I enjoyed the job. It had excellent pay. I like the people I worked with. I did not have problems getting the work done. However, something was missing. As I look back on that time, there was nothing pressing me to retire from the outside. Something on the inside made me jump at the first opportunity to retire. This retirement presented a turning point for me on my journey that I did not recognize at the time. Without that job title to define me, I lost a part of who I had been and thought I was.
When I returned to work at the Department of Social Services, I asked myself if I had made a mistake in accepting that job I had never worked so hard for so little pay in comparison. But for the first time in my life, I found fulfillment in a job. I grew to love my job so deeply. Finally I was in a position to make a difference in the lives of others. Although I was inundated with paperwork, cases, phone calls and deadline, I felt purpose. It brought joy to my heart to do something that changed someone’s life and bring peace to worried minds. It felt good to be able to find answers and assist with needs for the elderly. My fulfillment was not in the job title or power of the position. It was in the service of helping others. I could and would actually say, “I love my job” for the first time in my life. I had never been so happy helping and serving others.
I set out on this journey to discover myself, so I thought. In many ways, I believe I have always been looking for me. I think sometimes we can find ourselves looking for what we already have and are. When we allow others, be they friends, family or foe, to define us, we won’t be able to see what we already know within us. When we let others tell us what we should be or do, sometimes we get it right but often times we get it wrong.
I recall some years ago when I felt a call to the ministry, I spoke to my Pastor at that time about it. When he asked me why I felt this and what kind of ministry I felt led to do, I prayed about it and gave him this answer. I said I believe my calling is to minister across denominational, cultural and racial lines to serve people and bring them together in unity. I desired to help all people come together and find their way to a life of love, hope and peace. My response from him was that I was nothing but a servant. At the time, I felt a bit insulted and belittled by his remark. But I have since come to understand that although he did not mean it as a compliment; he was telling me the truth. I agree with him at this point in my life.
Although I feel that I have added some other qualities over time to this servanthood. I do love serving people. This is what true ministry is, serving people. It is the most fulfilling thing that I have ever had opportunity to do. And it does not necessary need to be done inside of a building. It brings me much joy and happiness to help others become than they were when I first met them.
So now I have to ask myself, what am I looking for? What am I looking to discover about myself that I don’t already know? I believe it is what everyone else is looking for. I believe another way to look at it would be to ask, how do I fit in this game called life? What is my part in this collective of existence we are calling life?
We really are all connected regardless of religious beliefs, race, cultural beliefs, occupation or lifestyles. My part in all of this, I believe, is to serve and help others become their best selves or at least help them on their journey as we cross paths in this life. My purpose is to build up not to tear down It is to be a voice of encouragement and a mirror to reflect back the best in those who stop to look into my words. It is to love without judgment, to offer acceptance of differences and allow authenticity in strengths and weaknesses.
A part of the journey, I also believe, is to seek what we are giving. This could be the reason we give what we do. All that I have given and the ways that I have served others, I must now return that back unto me. My calling and purpose is not just for others. If I am going to truly live out my calling and my purpose, I must start with myself. I am told to love my neighbor as myself. So if I am to find myself on this journey, I must love myself without judgment, accept my own differences from others and allow myself to be authentic in my weaknesses and my strengths. I must become okay with being my own servant. I must be okay with filling my cup of happiness and joy so that I can in turn have enough to extend to others. In order to serve others, I must first serve myself.
Today I take another step towards self-knowing, self-acceptance and self-love.