Losing & Finding: How I found purpose by losing it all.

I’ve come to this conclusion: purpose and identity come from one of two places - created things or the Creator. One crumbles and the other stands.

Created things come in all shapes and sizes: spouses, children, fancy cars, large bank accounts, star promotions, perfect grades, recognition, and so much more. As pretty, shiny, affirming, and comforting as they are, none can uphold the weight of purpose and identity, and when used for that, they ultimately fail. And, boy, do I know it.

I was not the popular girl in school. Boys weren’t lined up to take me to the dance. (Well, to be honest, I went to private school and we didn’t technically have dances, but you get the idea.) I learned pretty early on my value would come from achievement. I maintained impeccable grades, was president of every club I could join, landed outstanding internships, and planned a seamless transition into college where everyone was cheering me on toward certain success. 

Two months into my freshman year, I got sick. Really, really sick. I couldn’t make it to class and nobody could figure out what was wrong. Somehow I missed the fact dropping classes was a legit option, and my pride convinced me I could finish. Christmas break was a nightmare. All my friends boasted Dean’s List honors, so I avoided eye contact at all costs during those awkward conversations. While they talked GPA’s, I slipped out to the bathroom or suddenly noticed a “missed call.” I’d failed pretty much everything, which translated to academic probation, a forced major change, and losing every scholarship I’d worked so hard for. I’ll never forget the walk of shame to the Liberal Arts building to sign the probation paperwork. I cried all the way there and all the way back. 

Though a diagnosis - and cure - came in the spring, I finished the semester with straight C’s, earning another semester of academic probation. Unable to do much else, I spent a lot of days in bed reading the Bible. For the first time, I realized I was not only trying to earn everyone else’s love and approval through my pursuit of perfection, but God’s, too. It’s as if I built my identity like a house of cards, and, with one blow, everything crumbled. No good grades or outstanding performance were left standing. My self-esteem was in shambles and my life was a wreck. I felt completely lost.

Turns out the Bible has a lot to say about finding and losing. Like sheep, we are the ones who wander off into places we were never supposed to go. Like a Shepherd, God is the one who finds us. God found me right there in that dorm room - amid the piles of failure, text books, pastel bedding, and shame. 

I brought nothing to the table, and I finally realized I never had. God’s love and grace were free and entirely unearned. My life has never been the same.

I used to think identity and success were defined by achievement, careers, people, children, and money, but now I know the truth, and that truth brought sweet, sweet freedom.

Question: How would finding your purpose and identity in your Creator, rather than created things, change your relationships, routine, and your life?