In the pursuit of one’s purpose let joy be a guide

Several years ago, when I first started performing weddings, guests would occasionally approach me after a ceremony to share some aspect that had moved or inspired them and then ultimately declare, after inquiring about my background doing such work, that I’d obviously found my calling.

Such words were always gratifying, but while ministering to couples and families as an officiant with Journeys of the Heart has been one of the most fulfilling areas of my life, I hesitated to embrace it as the calling others believed I’d discovered. The word itself seemed too big, too far-reaching for what it is I do, though it brings me great joy and feeds my spirit in a way nothing else does and though every couple I meet becomes lodged, even if temporarily, in a tender place in my heart. To define such work as a calling, however, seemed to suggest I’d found my mission in life, the work that would build the legacy I’d leave behind one day.

That purpose, imbued with such a sense of grandeur and nobility, has long remained elusive.

Lately, however, I’ve been wondering if we really are all blessed with a singular gift, talent or idea we’re meant to uniquely express in the world. Is there really one specific thing our life is calling us to be, one dream that once realized will deliver us to a daily soul-satisfying experience?

I am not too sure, but it does seem as if life leaves us with clues — an insistent tug or easy enthrallment, the sensation of feeling vibrantly alive or the ability to completely lose ourselves in an act of giving or creation — the closer we get to whatever that might be.

Recently, a friend who has a highly successful career in corporate America shared how much fun she had helping a colleague organize her closet. For her, it wasn’t only about making sure everything had its proper place. She practically beamed as she talked about helping her coworker determine her signature style and then rooting through her closet to decide which items reflected that look, while coming up with ideas for wardrobe pieces that would flatter her the most. In my friend’s mind, she wasn’t just doling out fashion advice or indulging in a girlie activity.

She was boosting the self-confidence of another woman and in doing so also opening her up to more possibilities for her life. That afternoon felt so rewarding, she has offered to do the same for a girlfriend and is wondering if perhaps this is the project intended to fill the space she’s been carving out in her life.

Just last week, another friend confessed how happy she felt stepping back onto the college campus where she’d taught a course in the spring of 2011. Though she works in corporate communications, she immensely enjoyed her semester imparting her knowledge in that field to the students in her class and watching them learn and grow. Invited back for one of their senior presentations last week, she felt enlivened by the atmosphere on campus and gratified to be approached by two of her past students who couldn’t wait to tell her all they’d been up to in the last year and of their post-graduation plans. That afternoon, she began contemplating whether the college, and not her job in pharmaceuticals, is ultimately where she belongs.

I don’t know if either of them would say they’ve found their calling but they do seem to be living their way into it, viewing those moments that brought them both an irreplaceable satisfaction as signposts along the way.

Perhaps this is what we, too, must do. Rather than striving for the mighty mission that will benefit humankind or launch a small revolution, the road to more purposeful living may lie in being conscious of the things that light us up, those things we can turn to time and again, even when we’re at our most listless or depleted, and still find fulfillment and inspiration. Then, as we engage in more of those moments, our purpose will start to unfold.

We may not be called to leave our jobs and start a new career or venture all our own. We may not even be called to something sweeping in scope. Sometimes, one’s purpose may be as modest as living with intentional kindness each day, being a devoted parent or otherwise exemplifying the values most held dear.

If we don’t eventually come to that knowing of what it is we were put here to do, perhaps it is because we will be summoned to share our gifts in multiple ways. As we move through the seasons of our lives, our many experiences, including — and sometimes especially — our most challenging, may steer us toward a project, an organization or a career that feeds a budding passion.

I wasn’t looking for something that would give me an outlet for my romantic and sentimental nature when I began performing weddings. Presiding over ceremonies to mark life’s significant passages was not even a speck in the realm of possibilities I saw for myself. But when the opportunity came, I seized it. Encouraged by the spark of exhilaration — and, yes, even fear — that I felt, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to be of service in a way that has ultimately aligned with everything I believe to be good and true about myself.

When I perform a wedding, it never ceases to amaze me how everything falls away but that moment in which I’m standing before the couple and their gathered friends and family. For however long the ceremony takes, there is nothing but the delight in being a witness to so much happiness and the awareness of what a gift it is to be invited into such a rich and sacred time of their lives, no matter what challenges or stresses I may be facing in my own. Last weekend, I married a sweet, young couple in Philadelphia. On a day when I’d been buffeted by sorrow, given it was the anniversary weekend of the passing of my mom’s companion, I completely forgot how sad I was and walked away uplifted to have been a part of their celebration.

So perhaps those early observers were right. I have found my calling, though it’s not in performing the ceremonies themselves but stepping into those places that call me to live with unabashed joy — and trusting that as the path which will lead me to a greater purpose or bigger plan, and even if it doesn’t, to never steer me wrong.

– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times


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