My Pursuit Of Purpose with Dr. S. Alyssa Preston

Jan 25, 2021

For many years, my pursuit of purpose was anything but purposeful.

I often found myself in the aftermath of seemingly right decisions that left me struggling within myself wondering, what in the world went wrong?!  

In hindsight, I can see a pattern in the decision making.

I’ve pushed my way through doors that weren’t for me to open.

I’ve stepped through open doors that looked good, but weren’t good.

I’ve procrastinated doing the hard things in hopes of an easier way through.

I’ve pursued the wrong friendships and dated the wrong men. 

I’ve chased other people’s dreams for my life.  

 

Notice the pattern?  Each decision started with ME.

Does this sound familiar to you?

We all have stories of failed attempts at purpose. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in the journey… at least until we meet someone who is fully living in their purpose.  Then the world goes tilt.  We start to ask questions.  Reflect on our decisions.  Take stock of our life and our very small world.  And wonder what we need to do to finally connect to the right path.  

My pattern of decision making was interrupted at a Women of Faith Conference in Pittsburgh nearly 14 years ago.  Luci Swindoll was speaking.  I had never heard her name before, but when she started telling her story, I was transfixed.  Luci was vibrant, charismatic, funny and living the life I wanted to live—a life of writing, speaking, real community impact, world-wide travel, gatherings with good friends, and adventures with God in the most amazing places.  

I remember her story.  Luci had experienced the big corporate job, and she retired from it.  She always loved adventure, so she made it a part of her life in little ways everyday.  From singing opera in a local choir to photography, Luci really lived life. And when she retired, she adventured around the world.  This is actually where her adventures really began. 

As I listened to her, all I could think about was, how do I sign up for this life?!  

I had spent six years earning my doctorate while also working in the marketplace.  It was an intense season of teaching, pursuing tenure, holding multiple roles in departmental leadership, scholarly writing and conferences, and professional consulting.  I was piled high and deep under work and under expectations based on other people’s dreams for my life.  There was a treadmill of success, and I was running on it, faster and faster.

But as I listened to Luci, I felt something new catch fire in me.  The only problem was I had NO idea what to do about it.  

So, I did the first two things that came to mind.  I bought Luci’s book, Doing Life Differently: The Art of Living With Imagination (and encourage you to buy it too!), and I signed up for a season pass to the Pittsburgh Opera.  I couldn’t sing like Luci, but I sure could enjoy it.  

Now, years later, I’ve had many adventures.  Though my profession shifted, I can see how God stirred purposeful desires in me.  He even used these experiences to override the observations made by others that had wrongly become direction for my life. 

Throughout this journey, God has led me to connect with His plans and purpose in memorable and adventurous ways.  I love to travel and have been able to do so abroad and throughout the US.  I’ve been exposed to learning experiences that helped me to become better with speaking and writing.  In fact, I even had the privilege to present original work at an Oxford University conference.  This was a total gift—like walking in the footsteps of some of my most beloved authors—Lewis and Tolkein.  I’ve been honored to mentor many women into life's next steps, big and small.  I co-founded this company.  In the middle of all my learning and professional growth, I got open and deep water scuba certified at Grand Cayman Island.  And let’s not forget that I get to love and care for NINE outdoor cats (a total dream come true). 

My life of adventure is still a far cry from Luci’s, but I’m chasing it.  And just like Luci, I’ve learned that pursuing my God-given purpose isn’t about the perfect, prescriptive plan with all the right steps.  It’s about adventure.  Specifically, adventuring with God.

Of all the things I’ve learned from Luci’s life, this is the one that stays with me the most: God has a plan for your life, and it is good, fun and full of adventure! BUT, and this an important but, if you don’t ask God for a sense of purpose and then listen carefully, you won’t hear anything.

Did you catch that?

You can ask.  He’ll answer.  But the only way you hear it is to listen, carefully.  

This reminds me of the story of Samuel in the Old Testament.  We know him best as the prophet who anointed Saul as King, and then David as King.  But his story is more than that. 

From the time he was a child, Samuel ministered to the Lord, serving in the Temple under Eli. (You can read the full story in 1 Samuel.)  At one point, the Lord called to him, but Samuel didn’t know His voice.  He answered by going to what was familiar.  This was Eli.  

After three of these experiences, Eli realized what was happening and gave Samuel this instruction.

 

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. —1 Samuel 3:8b-9

 

Right then, Samuel was redirected from what was familiar to the voice that would guide and lead him for the rest of his life.  God was speaking directly to him.  Samuel’s role in the moment was crucial.  He had to be still, listen and respond.

Can you relate like I can?  In that auditorium, I was captivated by Luci as she shared her adventures.  But I was compelled by her relationship with God.  She was like Samuel—careful to stay still, listen and respond.  She trusted God’s voice more than any other.  And though His instructions didn’t always lead her in the way she wanted, she believed He was always focused on what was best for her.  And her life was amazing!

My journey into purpose became purposeful when, like Luci, I started to ask God for a sense of purpose and destiny… and got still enough to listen, carefully, for His direction.

What used to feel vague and ephemeral now feels full of possibility and adventure.  I now move toward purpose with a daily reliance on God’s Word and a consistent practice of inviting Him into my everyday life decisions—you know, like He’s actually the most important part of my life.

I am convinced that discovering God’s purpose for your life isn’t complicated.  

It's going through life with God.  

The question is: Are you ready to stop running to the familiar voices and listen carefully for His?

It may take a couple tries, but give yourself the space and time to sit still and ask Him to give you a sense of purpose and destiny. This may mean turning down some of the other voices around you.  Consider what you watch, what you read and who you listen to.  Whether that’s taking a break from loading up on Sunday messages or podcasts, or just turning off the TV at night.  Give yourself time to be still and listen.  

When you step toward life with God—asking, listening and responding—He will direct your steps.  He will take you on the adventure you were always meant to live.  He will keep you moving toward who you were created to be.

Give Him your YES, and listen carefully for his voice.  It may be an unfamiliar voice at first.  Keep asking, listening and responding.  The more you do this, the more familiar His voice will become. 

Trust God.  He will order your steps and make your path straight into your purpose. 

 

With adventure in our hearts, and purpose in our lives…

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