Pretty quickly––as in immediately––I was reintroduced to the idea I had tried to ignore: life purpose. And even worse, I couldn’t get away from it. Whenever the hated concept was mentioned, or even the suggestion of setting goals, my reaction ranged from apathy to full blown aversion. “I’ve made plans before,” was my common response, followed by a rubbing of my thumb and a hollow laugh. But I couldn’t get away. There were testimonial videos…action steps after every coaching call…S.M.A.R.T. goals…Navigate. As if this wasn’t unnerving enough, in a final humorous twist, I ended up best friends with the daughter of the founder of Life Purpose Planning.
Despite the irony, cynical me was not amused.
With God’s help though, I did eventually thaw. He disproved each lie, massive and slight, that fed my frustration and depression when it came to life purpose and my apparent failure at misreading mine. Yellow brick roads, He taught me, were not carpets in a game. They were simply roads––and roads never look the same. “What had I done?” and “What had I missed?” got trimmed down further and further, until all that was left was me asking: “Why?”.
“Why did you take art away?”
I got my answer (four and half years later from the start of it all) sitting at a kitchen table, in a cabin in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, surrounded by fellow Unbound students. It was the opening session of The Great Art Project, and in hindsight, that sort of setting should have been a clue that God was going to do something, but after all the years of waiting, and repeatedly asking God “Why?”, I wasn’t expecting anything, least of all this:
I was doodling in my notebook, when I heard:
“I want you to do art.”
I glanced up. Fortunately, the sound was in my head, and it didn’t look like it was in anyone else’s. “You want me to do what?” I answered, also silently.
A silent nod.
“Then what was all that?” I snapped, thinking back on all the disorienting pain. “Was it all just a joke to you?”
Silence again, for a few moments. Then: “I took art away because it was going to kill you––spiritually. You were using it to prove your worth to others, yourself, and even worse…to me. Now, you can make art as I made you to. Your art is redeemed.”
I didn’t cry––then. I did, a lot, later.
I’d like to conclude this story with a letter. I think it will help me wrap up my closing thoughts on this story best:
This letter is a rough draft. I was going to edit it, backspace, do all that, which I did for the post, but I don’t want to do it here. (Obviously typos are an exception.) I heard a quote a few weeks ago, while at Capstone, spoken by none other than Gandalf himself: “Advice is a dangerous gift, even from a friend to a friend.” The last thing I’d want to do in concluding this post is give you advice. I’m not going to tell you to follow yellow brick roads, or avoid them. I’m not going to tell you what the best roads look like. I figure, as a human, I’m going to be pretty bad at that. God holds the maps, compasses, plans, etc., and chances are, if Jesus died for you, he cares where you end up. Just a thought.
Lastly, to those of you who found this story unnervingly relatable, share yours. You may hate the lumps, and bumps, and the things you believed along the way, but rough drafts are part of the story. You need the beginning and the end to have a story of redemption.