Two years ago, I was on the straight road, to purpose. Two years later, I pulled over to the shoulder. GPS can get me to Omaha, but it’s useless, for directions to purpose.
If people ask, they’ll say something like, “How’s retirement?”
This isn’t retirement. Two years ago, I closed my business, to write seriously. Instead of writing with the leftover hours, after work, what if writing was my work?
Maybe people thought me dreamy, like I’d decided to go to Hollywood. Or the other way: in a world where people read less, maybe writing seems like swimming against the current.
It wasn’t emotional – “pursuing my passion” – it was about putting belief into action. I believe that whatever gifts and talents God gives us, He expects us to use them. I had prepared myself. I was qualified. In my 60’s, if not now, when?
It’s a transition, like all the others. Leaving is one thing; arriving is another. I’ve been plugging along, making smoke, but no bonfire.
Then, in the last few months, I began second guessing.
It’s the usual, personalized self-doubt. Is there an audience for how I think, and what I write?
I’d write a story with depth, get a modest, local reaction, much appreciated… until I saw another writer getting enormous national reaction on a story no deeper than a kiddie pool. (That kind of thinking, it’s like a boat headed to Comparison Island, where originality gets shipwrecked, and all the stories end up being about coconuts.)
My second guessing started much earlier, with (of all things) Bob Hope.
I was going to use Bob Hope in a story, as a reference, somebody everybody knew, until I realized that some younger people wouldn’t know Bob Hope from Johnny Carson, John Hancock from John Adams, George Patton from U.S. Grant.
The lightbulb lit.
I could see it; a hundred years from now, history is going to quicksand Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk like its doing to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
A hundred years from now the American presidents of my lifetime will just be names on a list, like Harrison, Tyler and Van Buren.
It was a truthful, humbling moment. If being a Big Deal isn’t such a big deal, then what’s the purpose of even trying?
(Trust me, there’s light coming.)
This thinking caused more thinking. (I write, not because I’m a writer, it’s because I’m a thinker. The gray drives the black. (What my mind lacks in sharp teeth, it compensates for by steady chewing.))
I’ve been thinking about purpose as long as I’ve been thinking about God. A long time. The short answer: If God has purpose, so do we.
We have other similarities with God. We feel, He feels too. Ever feel invisible, taken for granted, do something you’re good at and nobody really appreciates it? God does. Constantly.
Yet He keeps doing. I suppose that’s what we’re supposed to do too.
Jimmie Up Early
This guy I know, Jimmie, he takes pictures of sunrises. Morning after morning, year after year. His wife jokes, “It’s the same sun.” But he woke up early this morning, and he’ll wake up early tomorrow.
Here I am, dog chewing on a purpose bone, and in some unintentional, accidental way, I run across Jimmie’s sunrise picture, like it’s the missing piece of the puzzle, like a Parable on Purpose.
By waking up early to catch a sunrise, Jimmie is participating in a natural miracle. Every picture he takes, is like clapping for God. God doesn’t get much clapping.
The sunrise is God being God, showing up, whether anybody notices or not. The sun isn’t everything, but it has an important purpose. If Jimmie slept through the entire day, the sun was still there, being about its purpose.
The sun is symbolic of our lives. We all have something, where we put off heat, where we bring light. If God can go and on, giving and giving, without so much as a thank you, then why am I measuring whether I do something or not, by whether I have an audience of few or many?
Jimmie taking a sunrise picture is just Jimmie being Jimmie, but because it helped me, even unintended, his “Jimmie-ness” is now bigger than Jimmie. And now, by me being me, and writing about it, maybe it affects you too, and the ripples go on and on…
If Jimmie was the only person on the planet that took pictures of sunrises, and he thought, ‘What’s the point?’ and slept late instead, the world would lose something irreplaceable, Jimmie being Jimmie.
Aren’t we all Jimmies with different names? With different sunrises?
Because of Jimmie, my clarity returns. My purpose is to be the full me. If I’m here, God intends me to be here. What comes easy, what I’m good at, that’s Him in me, and only He knows why. I’m a thinker, so think. I’m a writer, so write. Trust the wiring.
Has something I’ve written ever made you think? Or feel? Laugh, or cry? Have I ever given you perspective? Have I ever written what you were feeling, but didn’t have the words for?
That’s what I am, that’s what I’m supposed to do. Every story is my version of a sunrise. My job is to take the picture. God and people do the pollinating. What effect it has, that’s between the water and the horse led to it.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to the belief that God made us different for a reason. Trust your strengths, because God entrusted you, with them.
To order his books, or put Uncle P in your will, or those just wishing to give him a piece of their mind, Uncle P can be reached at email@example.com. More Bedtime Stories can be found on the Eighty-one Facebook page.