In the past four years my prominent role has been ‘Mum.’ For a long time I struggled to answer the question “So, what do you do?” without feeling sheepish. I’ve always believed that my life has purpose but the absence of a paid job role outside the home left me questioning the value of my contribution to the world.
Purpose looks different on us all. Maybe for you it looks like being an actress, an engineer, an athlete or a business woman. It can also look different on the same person in different phases of life. Becoming a mum, sickness and a change in financial circumstances are some examples of how our life focus can change significantly. If this is the case, is there any part of our purpose that doesn’t change?
I was cooking a meal for the kids a few weeks ago. As I picked up the salt to season the fish my 4 year old said, “Mummy I don’t want any of that in there.” Checking what he meant I replied. “You don’t want any salt?” “No salt,” he said.
I explained that if I didn’t add any salt, then the food wouldn’t have any flavour. Having listened to what I said, he asked if he could taste the salt on its own. I told him it wouldn’t taste nice like that but he insisted, so I put a little on my finger for him to lick. As his tongue touched the grains he screwed up his face. “Yuk!” I explained that the salt needed to be mixed into the food first and then he would like it. “You see? On it’s own, it is just bitter Jude.” He smiled.
Our chat got me thinking about our purpose as believers. The Bible likens us to the salt Jude was initially telling me to leave out. Look at these words that Jesus spoke to His disciples:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”Matthew 5:13 MSG
Jesus was talking to the them about their role in society. He wanted them to know that when they fulfilled that role they would be useful and effective. They would be the very means by which people would experience God. Think about the many uses of salt. It’s a preserver, it keeps things fresh, brings out flavor, can speed up the healing of wounds and it helps prevent decay. What application could this have to our world?
It may sound harsh but without this purpose, Jesus also explained that their lives would have no significance. It would be a ‘throw away’ existence. Let’s read a bit more:
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”Matthew 5:14-16 MSG
As Jude discovered, on it’s own the salt was very bitter, but once mixed in the food it found it’s effectiveness and purpose. I personally imagine the salt that hasn’t been added to the food to be like people who point the finger and complain about the lack of God flavor in the world yet don’t do anything about. Religious people who turn their nose up at ‘hopeless sinners’ and have lost touch with the world they live in. We are not those women. Or maybe it’s those of us who are paralyzed by our fears, wanting to make a difference but just too wrapped up in the security of our comfort zone. Let’s not be these women either.
These verses may sound inspiring on the surface, but they were deeply challenging to a group of people who knew this responsibility would cost them their lives. It was a life only made possible by God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live in the confidence of the hope they had received. The reality is that being effective and useful requires us to make the decision to courageously interact in the world, carrying the love, presence, perspective and power of God with us. Even when it’s not popular.
This is our primary purpose. It is to grow in the likeness of Christ and to glorify God above all else. It finds it’s voice in the uniqueness of our gifts, talents and skills but the desire to shine the light of God’s glory should underpin everything we ever do.
It cannot be limited to a job role or a title because it is an extension of who we are as light bearers. Therefore, it does not cease or change when our circumstances shift. It can be challenging to navigate these times, but when we are rooted in this endeavour, we will always be effective and useful in the eyes of God. It may not always impress your peers, make sense to those around you, or even look like how you imagined but if we stay rooted we have the opportunity to grow in ways we never would have imagined.
This primary purpose gives direction and life to the secondary. It encompasses all of our activity and filters into everything we do. Without it our accomplishments and our lives eventually start to feel empty and unfulfilling. We may feel directionless or have a sense that we are not quite hitting the mark. A sense of incompleteness, even when we are doing good and supposedly “bossing” life. Whether we’re in the court room, at uni, on the sports field, at home with the kids, in a hospital bed or singing on stage our contribution to the world around us counts.
A shining light only finds it’s true purpose when it can be seen. Once we have been changed by the gospel, if we choose to shine we must surrender our will, our fears, our prejudices, and serve the communities around us. We must step beyond the boundaries of selfish ambition, our comfortable places and spaces and like salt look for opportunities to infuse and add flavour to the people in our sphere of influence. Maybe then, they too will experience and see the wonder of our great God.