Lately I've been trying to wrap my brain around the dichotomy of purpose and love. On the one hand, these concepts seem so at war with each other; on the other hand, they seem inextricably intertwined. How are we supposed to have purpose without love? What would be the point? And how are you supposed to fully accept and give love without having some sort of purpose.
When I think of purpose, my type A personality naturally thinks goals that need to be achieved in order to validate my existence on the planet. To me, thinking of life in a solely purpose-driven light is one of the most self-seeking ways a person can live--a way of life that comes into direct conflict with love. That is all I will mention on the subject; I will not venture onto my soap box about how the modern church and society have used "purpose" to empower people as individuals, to the detriment of people working together for a greater purpose, whatever one feels that greater purpose may be. I digress here to mention that although I am influenced [hopefully] wholly in life by my love of Christ, the dichotomy of purpose and love is not something I just see in the church, but in society as a whole.
Thinking about what role "purpose" should play in our individual lives, I cannot help but think of another dichotomy--that between service and fulfillment. Maybe it's just me, but the thing that rewards me in life is seeing the good I have done for others (i.e. how my life has impacted theirs). This is not me trying to place myself on a pedestal, because I assure you, it sometimes disturbs me to think of what a high I get from positively impacting others. And I am sure I would not be nearly as eager if helping others did not give me some sort of emotional high. But, I am getting off topic. Back to discussing purpose.
While I completely believe that every person living on this earth has a God-given gift/talent (insert me rolling my eyes at the beyond numerous spiritual gifts' tests I have taken), I believe that sometimes focusing on what you do best is not serving your purpose. Sometimes it seems that once we have discovered our "purpose" in life, we run straight forward toward it like a goal with an expiration date, disregarding (and sometimes stepping on) other people's alleged purposes. However, I think this discounts an overall understanding of purpose, which is love.
The Bible is very clear that everything is meaningless without love. I will take this and logically infer that without love, we have no purpose. Note that I am not talking of love with any regards to romantic love. I am no expert on that, and choose to avoid the topic altogether. I will now quote the most overly quoted passage of the Bible (which, side note, is one of my greatest pet peeves when recited at weddings), 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Maybe law school has ruined me, but I now see this passage and think of elements. Elements that make up love. Elements in which the absence of one creates the absence of love in the truest sense of the word. When I see patience, kindness,...enduring all things as the elements of love, I get a little overwhelmed. I would even argue (much to the chagrin of many Biblical scholars) that a study and ability to achieve love would take a lifetime. It seems complicated enough when we decide to love our friends. But what about when we love our enemies? Or people that could care less about loving us (or being appreciative of love give) in return? For me at least, it is much easier to love someone who hates me than someone who doesn't care at all. It points back to what validates me--being needed by others.
But what does this have to do with purpose? Is serving others my purpose because it validates me the most? Or because it is what I am best at? Or because it most helps me convey my love for others? Or some combination of the above? Does it matter that achieving purpose in life is driven [partially] by selfish motives? And does it matter if purpose is pursued only in a humble fashion? These are questions that I have that I am far from answering. But how awesome being given a life-time and a brain to do so.
If you have made it to the end of this post and are thinking, "huh?" or "seriously, Rachel?" (as I admittedly am thinking to myself), then be assured that I do not always attempt to be quite so deep; I say attempt because I am not sure whether or not the above added any real value to the world at large. In the future, I will be wittier, and update the world on clearly the most important thing in the world--my life (note blatant sarcasm, followed by an laugh equivalent to that of a Disney villain).
That is the end for now, except for one quick treat. A pie recipe* to reflect my thoughts above: