Rediscovering the Why

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
— Mark 1:35-38

That is why I have come…
I recently started looking at the above verses in a new light. As a coach, I strive to help my clients get clarity on the WHY of what they’re doing or making plans to do. Re-visiting and reiterating one’s life purpose is a necessary practice for keeping on course. In this pursuit, we may look at several key issues including identity, core values, ideals and motivation. We also point them to Jesus, the One who understood better than anyone the purpose for which he was sent. Jesus was never found scratching his head wondering what to do next. He could always, with confidence and conviction, answer the WHY question.

Jesus was in high demand. He was surrounded by crowds of people clamoring for his attention. Within those crowds were real people, all with their individual pleas for help. They were searching him out, yelling from the roadsides, climbing trees and rooftops just to get closer. People with countless spiritual, emotional and physical needs.

Even with all these demands for his time and attention, Jesus adhered to a practice that grounded Him in His mission: He retreated to a solitary place frequently to spend time with His Father. Once or twice a day? We really can’t say for sure as to the frequency of these mini retreats. That’s not the point. We do know that these were regular, ongoing away times. Father and Son. Sender and Sent One. The practice centered Jesus and focused him on the main thing. It’s no coincidence that Jesus, on the heels of one of his many retreats, exclaimed to the disciples, “That is why I have come.”

I’ve had those moments before, times when I’m so full of a sense of purpose. I exclaim, “This is what I was destined for. This is why I’ve been sent here, given this responsibility, assigned this task.” You know the feeling?

How are you at keeping the main thing the main thing? I confess I’m not always so great at it. I get sidetracked and easily distracted. My sense of calling and purpose wanes. Then comes scattered thoughts, clouded vision, and loss of motivation. My question is this: Could there be a connection between retreat, knowing the why, and staying on mission?  Sharing personally, the chances of losing a grasp on the WHY are greatly increased when I drift away from caring for my own soul. Life challenges, big and small, can trip me up when I fail to practice some form of soul-care which keeps me grounded in God’s truth and established in His purposes.

Just yesterday I lost a dear aunt. She was like a second mother to me. She was spontaneous, funny, and fun – a child at heart. I recently spent some time at her bedside. I held her hand and stroked her forehead while singing hymns and reading to her from the Bible. Later that evening, she was gone. Just like that. 
A flood of memories has been rushing in. She was curious about people and about things. My aunt introduced me to camping, instilling into me a love for the outdoors. Although she didn’t take to the stream with me, her curiosity got the best of her when I returned to camp with my catch of trout. As we cleaned the fish together, she plucked out the little heart which was still beating, and I wondered how it could still be pumping when the fish looked dead on the outside. We marveled at the spectacle for a little while, then resumed getting our fish ready for the grill. Strange, the things we remember.

Thanks in part to my aunt and in part to how I’m wired, spending time in the outdoors is one way I recover my God-given curiosity and re-center myself in God’s purpose and mission. I’m not talking about finding a cave or monastery every time we need these reminders. While these have their place in soul-care, so does a good dose of fun, just creating space to reflect and spend some time disengaging our preoccupied minds and warming our hearts that naturally grow cold and unfeeling when we don’t unplug.

My aunt’s personal struggle to hold on to those final hours of life were hard to watch. There is nothing care-free about the fight between life and death. It’s never easy to let go. That is why those moments seemed so out of character for her. Claudie…my fun, playful, curious, unselfish, loving aunt. She was passing through the valley of death on her way to eternal life. It’s a passage we all must take at some point, but even the darkest valleys hold purpose:

...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
— I Corinthians 15:50, 54

Death eventually gets swallowed up in victory, but it doesn’t go without a fight. I’m thankful that when it does leave, it’s a complete devouring. Life that is truly life will reign supreme. That’s purpose on steroids!

And that’s the ultimate promise, but for the time being we are helping ourselves and others stay clear and on mission. We see the connection between the promise of eternal life and our purpose here on the face of the earth. How you do that and in whatever context, my hope is that you live and serve out of a strong personal sense of purpose and mission.

Why have you been sent? What is the purpose of your mission? How might a regular practice of retreat bring greater clarity to these big questions? Here’s to knowing the WHY and staying the course!