Chasing My Shadow Purpose

I’ve written recently about how temporary and seemingly trivial things have a strange way with interfering with our purpose in life. I don’t know why I’m so interested in the idea of purpose right now, but it’s something that’s been occupying a lot of my thoughts lately.

What is my purpose?

What am I supposed to do with my life?

Are all of the seemingly unrelated steps I’ve taken so far preparing me for something else? Something bigger? Something I was created for?

These are not new questions for me. In fact, I’ve been asking them for several years and though I see glimpses of answers from time to time, I still feel like I’m searching for that place where (to paraphrase Frederick Buechner) my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

And I’m perfectly OK with not having all of the answers on this one. Where’s the fun in solving all of the great mysteries of life before the age of 30 anyway?

However, while I often wonder what my purpose in life might be, I know without a doubt what my shadow purpose is.

An extension of one of Jung’s archetypes, a shadow purpose is simply something that seems like our true purpose but in reality is just a poor copy. A shadow purpose is not inherently bad or evil — it is, in most cases, just a simple yet powerful distraction.

For example, if the purpose of my life is to throw everything I have into serving the poor, then my shadow purpose could be to simply live a decent moral life that is filled with good things but that does not involve serving the poor. That’s just one example, but most shadow purposes could probably be summed up by the phrase, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

And while there’s nothing wrong with a little food, drink, and merry making from time to time, I think we’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would honestly say that’s the highest purpose of their life.

Like I said, there’s nothing inherently evil about a shadow purpose.

For another example, consider Oskar Schindler (you know, the man who had a list and saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories). With history on our side, it’s fairly easy to surmise the purpose of Schindler’s life. His purpose was to save the lives of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

I obviously don’t know a ton about Shindler, but I would guess that he was probably never in danger of becoming a Nazi. The thought of persecuting the Jewish and participating in the genocide himself probably never crossed his mind. Becoming a Nazi was probably not something that could have ever interfered with his true purpose. Schindler was clearly not a monster and he would have never wrongly assumed that something so terrible was his life’s purpose.

However, a shadow purpose for Schindler would have been anything that might have distracted him from protecting those people. What if Schindler had just kept his nose down and thought to himself, “My purpose is to run my factory and survive this war.”

Although there’s probably nothing wrong with that attitude, the lives of over a 1000 Jewish refugees might not have been saved.

Like I said, while I often wonder what my purpose in life might be, I am intimately and keenly aware of what my shadow purpose is.

For me, my shadow purpose involves living a life of comfort and ease. It’s going to lots of movies, reading tons of books, and enjoying time with friends and family. It’s chilling in my recliner and filling my evenings with the internet and television shows. It’s investing all my spare time and energy into renovating my house. It’s all those things plus a hundred other distractions, none of which are harmful in and of themselves.

But I know without a doubt that the purpose of life is so much more than those things.

I may not be privy to all the details on what it is my life is supposed to accomplish, but I know that it’s about more than the pursuit of my own personal happiness.

And so as I continually search for that place where my deep gladness AND the world’s deep hunger meet, I have to constantly remind myself that I’ll never find my life’s purpose if I’m only focused on the first half of that equation, that is, those things that make me happy.

What kinds of things make up your shadow purpose?


FM Transmitters, Static Interference, and Life’s Purpose

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the desert of southern California where I joined 72 other dudes at Joshua Tree National Park for a men’s retreat put on by the Hilltop Church in El Segundo, CA. It was a great weekend and I will have more to say about it later, but not in this post.

This post is about something that occurred during my 2-hour drive back from Joshua Tree to LAX airport on Sunday afternoon.

If you know me in real life (outside of this blog) you probably know that I’m somewhat of an audiophile. I love music… all kinds of music. I don’t go anywhere without my trusty iPod or Grooveshark and Pandora accounts. I almost always have headphones with me and when I’m going to be spending more than 5 minutes driving somewhere, I always rely on my Satechi Bluetooth FM transmitter to keep my tunes playing. This is not a product plug for Satechi, though if they wanted to send me a few more of their awesome products, I’d be fine with that. However, I LOVE THIS FM TRANSMITTER.

It’s the best FM transmitter I’ve ever owned. It requires no wires. It simply plugs into the A/C adapter in the car and automatically pairs with my phone via Bluetooh anytime I start my car. For those of you that don’t know what it means for a phone to pair via Bluetooth, all it means is that as long as the two devices are paired together wirelessly, any audio that would normally come out of my phone (iPod, Grooveshare, Pandora, YouTube, etc) automatically plays on my car stereo on whatever channel I have the Satechi tuned to. It’s amazing technology and it’s quite possibly the best sound quality I’ve ever gotten from an FM transmitter… wired or otherwise.

As good as this device is, like any FM transmitter, my Satechi is only as good as the availability of a free FM station to play it over. In OKC, I use 88.3 FM. There’s nothing on the dial at that point and so the sound is AMAZING. There is no interference and I can listen to my music at the highest fidelity possible short of using an audio in cable or going analog.

Normally when I travel somewhere outside of OKC, I just leave the device set to 88.3 and that usually works out fine. There just aren’t a lot of radio stations (no matter where you go) that low on the FM frequency.

This past weekend was no different. I got in my car on Sunday morning for my drive back into civilization from the Mojave desert, the transmitter paired with my phone, I selected my favorite playlist, and I took off toward Los Angeles.

It was great. I hadn’t heard much music the last few days and I was jamming out. Everything was going good until I hit Riverside, California… home of KUCR FM, campus radio station for the University of California Riverside. Coincidently, KUCR just so happens to also reside at 88.3 FM.

As I approached the campus on the freeway, I noticed my music, which had been crystal clear up until that moment, started to get a little fuzzy.

And then it got a lot fuzzy.

Then, out of nowhere, what had just moments before been the classic Claude Debussy tune, Claire De Lune (it’s the song that plays at the end of Ocean’s Eleven when they’re all standing outside the Belaggio watching the fountains), all of the sudden turned into Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. Now I don’t have anything against MJ or that song but it was not what I was in the mood for.

However, for some strange reason, I decided to see if the situation would work itself out on its own, so I didn’t mess with anything. I’m still not sure why I didn’t try to change the station on the radio or the device, but I didn’t. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was racing down a Los Angeles freeway at 75 mph and I have a strong self-preservation instinct.

As I kept driving, I got to witness an epic battle between the music on my iPod and the music being broadcast via KUCR — between my FM transmitter and a much larger radio tower only a few blocks away.

It was like David and Goliath all over again – minus all of the hubris, national pride, name-calling, and death inflicting smooth stones.

The sound went back and forth for a few moments with a bit of crackling static before KUCR and Michael Jackson drowned out my serene Claire De Lune.

But I didn’t give up. And neither did my Satechi.

Together we kept fighting. We’d go under a bridge and for a moment, Debussy would drown out MJ. Then we’d roll past the overpass and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough would come roaring back to life.

This went on for about 3 minutes. And then, almost as quickly as the interference started, I was out of range of the UC Riverside campus radio tower and my trusty little FM transmitter once again dominated the 88.3 position on the radio.

Am I playing up the drama in this little scenario? Sure.

But I couldn’t help noticing at least a small parallel to life. You see I believe that within each one of us is a distinct and specific purpose. A purpose that our lives are supposed to fulfill during the twenty to one-hundred years or so that we’re walking around this dusty planet. And while some people have no problem knowing and living out their purpose on a consistent daily basis, most of us struggle with knowing exactly what it is we’re supposed to accomplish in our brief lives. Most of us have some idea what our purpose in life is, but sometimes it’s not nearly as clear as we’d like.

It’s almost as if a small localized FM transmitter is constantly there with us broadcasting our purpose just within the range of our consciousness. When we’re tuned into the right frequency, we have no problem hearing the signal. In fact, it’s crystal clear.

However, for most of us (myself included) life is full of interference.

We have different signals coming at us from every direction. These amplified signals can easily drown out the constant yet quieter signals of our true purpose because they’re broadcasting at a much higher strength.

And yet, if we can ignore the interference, tolerate it’s presence for a short time, and not get off track, eventually we’ll be outside the range of the interference. And because our purpose is always with us, even though it’s broadcasting at a much less amplified signal strength, it comes roaring back to life once we’ve distanced ourselves from whatever was causing the interference.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m gut level honest with myself, within the very deepest parts of my soul, I have a pretty good idea what my purpose is. It’s always with me and if I stop for just a minute and get rid of the interference, I can almost always tune in loud and clear.

And then I pass another radio tower. And another. And another. And another.

So it’s a constant battle to stay tuned into what it is I believe my life is really supposed to be about. My purpose is always with me… staying in tune with it is just a matter of how fast I can distance myself from the interference.

And so I have to be intentional.

Intentional about the things to which I give my attention, focus, and energy. Intentional about the interference I let into my life. Intentional about who I spend my time with. Intentional about what I pursue.

Intentional and fast. Because the faster I get past whatever it is that’s attempting to interfere with my purpose, the faster I’m back in tune.

For those of you who have at least a small sense of what your life’s purpose might be, do you ever struggle with staying in tune with it?

If so, what’s causing the interference? What’s causing it and what do you to get on down the freeway out of it’s range?

Ministers Are People Too

Why don’t churches take better care of their ministers?

I know there are exceptions, but it seems like for the most part Christians expect very much from their ministers without giving them much in return.

I know a lot of gifted and Godly individuals who avoid or get out of paid ministry because they don’t want to have 150, 200, 300, or 2000 bosses always take take taking from them and their families without any regard for the fact that they, as ministers, are real people with real spiritual failings and real needs for encouragement, prayer, love, and support just like anyone else in a congregation.

Just because someone might give 10% of their income to the work of a church, doesn’t make them the boss of the people who have committed their lives to doing a job that often times undervalues them for their service.

I have a lot of thoughts on this that might warrant a more fully developed post in the future… in the mean time, TAKE CARE OF YOUR MINISTERS, THEY AND THEIR FAMILIES ARE NOT AND CAN NOT BE PERFECT, SO DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO BE.

In closing, just because you give a financial contribution to a church doesn’t give you the right to treat the minister, his wife, or his kids like your own personal spiritual servant.

P.S. This post was not motivated by any particular recent experience. In fact, I wrote it over 5 years ago on another blog. It’s just something that has always been (and continues to be) on my heart.

I’m Bringing Sexy Back

In January of 2006, I weighed 255 el bees. By June 2006, thanks to Weight Watchers plus a whole lot of grit and discipline, I weighed in at 195.

But… it didn’t stick. Sure, I kept the weight off for a while. Then, slowly but surely, I started gaining about a pound a month for the next four years and on the first of this month, I tipped the scale right at 238 pounds. Unacceptable. I’m a dad now. I gotta take care of myself so I can be around for the long haul for little Iz and her lovely and talented mama.

So… I’m back at it, and with the help of my Weight Watchers routine, the el bee’s have already started dropping. This morning I checked in at 230 lbs. My goal is 200 by Christmas.

And I’m not alone in this quest. If you’re into the Twitterz, you can follow the progress of several other peeps who are attempting their own version of the weight loss hustle by participating in the Sexy Back Health Challenge 2011 with the hash tag: #sexyback11

Here’s my before pic:

P.S. Don’t be thrown by the word sexy in the name. This is not about being sexy. To quote the guys that came up with the challenge, “It’s just a flashy name to build community and support around the larger concept of dropping pounds and grabbing life. Everyone who is participating is doing so for different reasons and will have different kinds of goals.”

New Design. New Direction.

It’s time to kick the dust, shake the cobwebs off this thing, and get it back going. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to my glory days of blogging one post a day, but I miss the process of writing and have decided to get back in the game.

In many ways, I started this blog as a way of getting to know myself better – of recording my thoughts and experiences during a time of major transition in my life. My grandfather’s health was slowly slipping away. My lovely and talented wife was pregnant with our first child. I was a landlord in more ways than one. I was growing up, asking a lot of questions, and trying to figure out if I actually had the intestinal fortitude necessary to man up and be the man I knew I needed to become.

Sure, biologically, I’d been a man for several years. But for the first time in my life, I was actually starting to feel like an adult. Writing this blog helped me crystallize so many of my thoughts and feelings about the kind of man — and father — I wanted to be.

When I first started writing Finding Manhood, the title fit really well with my current stage of life. In many ways, I really was trying to find manhood. Not that it was ever lost; I’d just never taken the time to seriously consider what it truly meant for me to be a man.

And so I wrote.

I wrote about serious things. I wrote about stupid things. I wrote about things that were intensely personal. I shared my failures and my victories. I wrote about life. I wrote about love. I wrote about manhood. And in the process, I began to “find myself” as a man.

Was it writing this blog that lead me to that new place in my life? Was it becoming a father? Was it making the difficult decision to quit pursuing something I thought I “should” be pursuing for something I valued more? Who knows?

What I do know is that I now have answers for many of the questions I was asking myself and exploring right here in this space this same time last year.

And so here I am… a little over a year later and, if I wanted the title of the blog to match my current life stage, I could rename it, “Manhood Found” or “Finding Fatherhood” or “Raising a Lioness” or something similar.

But I’m leaving it as it is… for now. Although I don’t plan on changing the title any time soon, there’s a fairly good chance I will begin to take Finding Manhood in a new direction — one that is more in-line with the stage of life I’m currently living as a man who’s trying to serve God, romance his wife, be there for his little girl, and provide for his family — all the while trying to find a moment here and there to mow the lawn, be a mentor, and catch an occasional rainbow trout or OU football game.

That’s my life and this blog is my story.

I’m back.