“Now, class, I’m going to give you an assignment,” the teacher said. “I want you to write a theme called ‘What I Want for Christmas.’” This pronouncement was followed by the agonized, collective groan of the entire classroom of children, except for one … Ralphie. He saw this essay as his final opportunity to make an impassioned plea to his parents for the only Christmas toy he really wanted: a Red Rider Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model air rifle BB gun! If he could just write about why he wanted it, surely they would grant his wish.
You will recognize this scene from the classic movie, A Christmas Story. We watch it every Christmas, and last year was no exception. I could always relate to Ralphie—not to BB guns! Themes have always been a means for my personal expression. Unlike kids who loved multiple-guess exams, shooting scattershot hoping to hit a right answer, I preferred writing my way through to prove my point or out of a pinch if I didn’t know the answer. I figured I could write my way out of a paper bag if necessary.
Because I’ve loved themes, a number of years ago before the annual one-word phenomenon had become the rage, I decided to live my life by an annual, prayed-over theme. Some of mine have been completion, new beginning, and surrender. But if I’m honest, year after year, though I’d start with high hopes of researching my theme’s etymology and Biblical background, applying it to aspects of my life, my “theme-ometer” excitement dropped from fever passion to frigid petrification. Translation: My theme always died.
In 2016, half-way through the year without having made a dent into my theme, I finally realized that living by one was distracting me from living on-purpose. I already have a theme, and it’s my purpose statement.
I contacted my mentor, Christian author and purpose expert, Kevin McCarthy, with whom I have worked personally, for his opinion. Here’s what he said: “Writing one word for the year is useful for the focus and simplicity of vision (something you envision) or mission (something you do). The exercise is incomplete. It does nothing to inform who you are in Christ—your identity and purpose.”
Kevin is right. My purpose is not described by completion, a new beginning, or surrender. To the glory of God I exist to serve by encouraging transparency. My purpose statement is boiled down into just two words: encouraging transparency. Kevin, who wrote the excellent book, The On-Purpose Person, a deceptively simple and easily apprehended parable about purpose, claims that your purpose statement should be just two words. Initially I balked and told him so. But when Kevin asked me if I could recite my purpose at gunpoint, I couldn’t.
After working with him, I intensified my statement from a paragraph (or two!) to two potent words, describing why I believe God created me. Kevin claims if you have a long-winded purpose statement, you probably don’t know what your purpose is. By being able to state it in two words, you cut through confusion to your core essence and can easily remember and live it.
He’s right! I had mistakenly amalgamated my purpose, mission, and vision into one confusing mass. Kevin is the only purpose author I know who clearly differentiates between these three concepts, which most people mistakenly use interchangeably. They’re each unique, yet should complement each other.
Because I know God created me to encourage transparency, I’m clear about how to live.
When I remember my purpose (and don’t get theme-sidetracked), it is the precise focal point through which I filter how I relate to God, to others, and how I write, speak, and lead journaling classes. And when I encourage transparency in myself, Lynn recedes and Christ shines through!
May I highly commend to you The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense by Kevin W. McCarthy. In 2017, discover who you are, where you’re headed, what you should do, and what’s most important to you. Living your full purpose, not just a word a year, moves you beyond life’s surface to what matters most so you can make the most difference.
Note: If you’ve chosen your “one word” for 2017, don’t abandon it; surely, it can inspire. But I would still encourage you to know your purpose and let God use that to guide every aspect of your life.
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Lynn D. Morrissey
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