Campfires and Kumbaya
This whole joy thing that I've been studying was born out of my work with the Halftime Institute where I and 40 other coaches help marketplace leaders discover God's calling for their second half of life.
The thing of it is that some people naively think that living out their life purpose will lead to "Campfires and Kumbaya" everyday. It doesn't work that way. Being target-locked on your unique calling doesn't mean you're always experiencing some sort of spiritual high. There are times when sacrifice and discipline and suffering are the order of the day.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about first, and then I'll end this post with a simple (though not necessarily easy) formula for discovering your calling and experiencing joy.
This week I attended our quarterly, 2-day strategic planning meeting at the Halftime Institute in Dallas. Although we laughed and joked and shared meals with each other, we were also busting our tails every working hour to increase the impact of our ministry. (Not to mention that I was once again away from home sleeping in 2 Star -- check that -- 1 Star Hotel.) We were just as focused and creative and engaged in big ideas and painful details as I was back in my days working for consulting firms.
No one would call these meetings joyful. But what makes them tolerable is that they are meaningful: If we plan well, I will get to use my skills as a speaker, teacher and coach to help people discover their calling. And they, in turn, will go love and serve a broken and hurting world. And that world will know that the love and service they are receiving comes from the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Said simply: The pain of these quarterly meetings is well worth of the gain of applying skills I enjoy using to issues I am passionate about. Joy becomes the God-given by-product of my purpose. It's not my focal point.
There is a whole industry built around "life purpose", "God's calling" and "self-actualization" --- both sacred and secular. The problem is that most of the advice is really just driving people towards another form of selfishness --- which always leads to emptiness.
The formula for joy is counter-intuitive, but simple:
1. What's the issue or cause in the world that makes you mad, sad or glad? What are you naturally curious about? Gardening? Hunting? Youth? Evangelism? Medicine? It could be something tragic like human trafficking. It could be something inspiring like music. It could be something fun like golf. I've seen people engage in all of these things in ways that leads to making a positive difference peoples' lives.
2. Next, apply the skills you're really good at to that issue. For example, if you're a CFO and enjoy it, bring some accounting expertise to an organization working on the issue or cause you're really interested in.
3. Engage in that cause using your skills in a way that meets a physical, emotional, practical, financial, or spiritual need of others. I know a guy in Orlando who intentionally golfs with strangers because he has a unique ability to get people to share the challenges of their lives and then he tells them about Jesus in a way that doesn't weird them out.
4. Make sure whatever you are doing is linked to drawing peoples' attention back to God. Helping someone get out of debt, or getting their belly filled, or feeling the compassion of a friend is all well and good, but if their eternity in heaven is not being secured simultaneously, what's the point?
So when it comes to purpose and joy, make sure your ultimate objective is not a selfish objective. Jesus said in Mark 8:35 (and I paraphrase) that if you really want joy, give up your agenda, love others, and point them back to me.
I strongly encourage you to read (or re-read) Chapter 9 of my book and follow through on the exercises there to get this figured out for yourself.
Peace and joy to you all.