Howard Thurman is known for saying, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Meaning is part of what makes us come alive.
What gives meaning to life/activities/hobbies/work (not limited to paid work)?
The central thing is to know we are involved in something bigger, something God-shaped, something that makes a difference in life. Brene Brown* writes that people who live wholeheartedly engage in meaningful work, or a calling, or that which gives them a tremendous sense of accomplishment and purpose.
This may sound fairly straightforward on paper, but most of us struggle with the big questions. Cultivating meaning takes the kind of thinking, dreaming, and questioning that we make room for when we cultivate calm and stillness, creating a clear space for prayer and reflection, like we explored last week.
What is God calling me to be and do? What is life asking of me now? How and where shall I offer my Spirit-given gifts and energy at this time? What are my criteria for meaning and how can I cultivate these right where I am?
Sometimes God sees something in us that we don’t see ourselves and we resist the call, like Moses…”not me, Lord!” Other times we put our energy into “should, supposed to” etc. Sometimes we just need to cultivate meaning where we are at present. And sometimes we are being called to let something go. In any case, naming and engaging in what is meaningful for us, gives us spiritual grounding that helps us better cope with stress.
Meaning is unique to each of us, like our gifts and talents. Naming your own criteria for meaning is important and it can help you discern if there is a shift in direction, a nudge from the Holy Spirit...or you may sense a peace about being where you are now.
Try this exercise to help you get started: Make a list of activity/work/hobbies that inspire you...things you love to do. Then consider what it is about each of these that brings meaning to you. Notice some of your criteria for meaning emerge. Take it to prayer and see what the Holy Spirt and you, together, come up with!
Go into your week with Peace, grateful for the meaning you experience each day, and open to new ways of being a blessing.
*from her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life - Guidepost #9