PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 1: ASPIRE
Hear God calling you to your true life purpose. That purpose is why you exist.
Voice of Shafeen
Once, a mystic was sitting on a wall next to a river. He noticed that a scorpion was walking near the edge and fell into the river. The mystic picked up the scorpion immediately to save its life. However, the scorpion became frightened, stung the mystic, and fell back into the river.
The mystic again reached out and picked up the scorpion and again the scorpion stung him.
This happened a few times until the mystic was able to finally get the scorpion out of the river onto the wall and guide it away from the edge. A witness asked the mystic: “Friend, you know that it is a scorpion’s nature to sting. Why, then, did you continue to save it from drowning? The mystic replied: “Because, I also know that it is my nature to save.”
Today, more and more people are trying to find the meaning, the calling, the purpose of their lives. Everyone is looking for that gift, that talent, which they were born to bring onto the plain of life. Unhappy men and women are quitting their jobs and sometimes leaving their families and comfortable lives to pursue their calling. Though the aspiration of seeking fulfillment and one’s purpose is noble, many times the perception is that this fulfillment resides out there in the world; hence, one believes that he/she has to travel great distances and sacrifice immensely to experience this purpose. “Pain is gain” is a motto that resonates with this type of searching for self-fulfillment. As the mystic teaches us in the story, it may not even be necessary for us to go anywhere in order to serve our true purpose. We may be able to live out our true purpose wherever we are by being true to our own nature, to our own being, “in here.” This is in contrast to meeting someone else’s standard of our purposefulness “out there.” The key is how we connect with what’s “in here,” to unveil our true nature, purpose, and calling.
In this journey of “Purpose through God,” we strive to connect with the spirit of God “in here,” within each and every one of us. Through that spirit, we strive to understand God’s vision for our personal existence. Purpose is something that’s hardwired in all of creation. The sun lights the earth and allows all life to find sustenance through it. The moon serves as a reminder of the sun in the night and causes the tides of the oceans. Trees bear fruits; clouds give rain; soil nurtures plants; wind allows for movement and migration. Everything that has been caused to exist has its own unique purpose or effect. In serving that purpose, each piece is a part of the bigger purpose of God as the creator and sustainer of all of life. Similarly, we, too, have our unique purpose. In serving that purpose, we, too, serve God’s purpose for all of life. Accordingly, the best definition of God in this journey is GOD as the Gate Of Destiny.
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 2: PREPARE
Recognize that when God created you, he created you to serve his creation. You are God’s grace upon all of life.
Voice of Man
… Once, a man searched for the purpose of life and went into a forest to meditate. One day, he observed an injured fox with a broken limb. The fox was handicapped and couldn’t do much for itself. The man thought that the fox would surely die in such a state. The next moment, a tiger brought food for the fox. Every day, the man noticed that the tiger would share his food with the fox. In this way, the fox stayed alive. The man thought: “Surely, if God can provide for this fox, he can provide for me.” So he sat under the tree meditating, waiting for some channel from God to bring him food. He sat, and sat, and sat, and no one arrived. He was hungry but stubborn and continued to wait. Just when he was about to pass out from hunger, he heard a voice from within:
“My child, I intended for you to be like the tiger, not the fox.”
Dear God, it was as if I was looking for a match to light my life, and this story gave me the eternal flame. I finally understood the purpose of my life. I was created to serve. I was created to be of use to my fellow brothers and sisters. All my life, I have been looking to you like the handicapped fox. I have been waiting for someone to save me and have been complaining about why help never arrived. All my life, you have been waiting for me to act like the tiger that you have created me to be, that you have gifted me to be.
Dear God, there’s so much I have to give to life. You have given me a smile that I can give freely to anyone and everyone with whom I come in contact. You have given me speech with which I can greet and spread words of love and light among those with whom I live. You have given me ears to be attentive to the needs of the suffering so that I can serve them best. You have given me eyes with which I can witness your light so that I can show it to those who remain in the dark. You have given me arms with which I can lift my falling brothers and sisters. You have given me legs with which I can walk them into safety and security.
Dear God, I was looking for a livelihood as the purpose of my life. What I now realize is that life itself is my purpose. Today, I’m thankful for this life, for this opportunity to serve and make a difference. Though I may have rainy days, I’ll never let them douse the flame of my spirit. I’ll never doubt my purpose again, my Lord. Wherever I am, the spirit of service will live in me and uplift all of life.
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 3: ARRIVE
Imagine yourself as having the infinite power and wisdom to grant one gift to the world. God has sent you to deliver this gift.
Voice of God
The mystic Rabia was once visited by two notable men. It was a custom to offer the best food to one’s guests. Rabia lived a simple life and didn’t have much food to offer. She put two loaves of bread, all the food that she had, in front of her guests. That instant, a beggar came to Rabia’s door, asking for food. Immediately, Rabia took the two loaves and gave it to the beggar. Knowing that Rabia was a poor woman, the guests now wondered what they would eat. Some moments later, a servant girl visited Rabia and offered her eighteen fresh loaves of bread sent by the girl’s mistress, a lover of mystics. Rabia refused the bread, insisting that there must be some mistake. There was, since the servant girl had stolen two loaves of bread for herself. She went away and returned with all twenty loaves. Rabia graciously accepted the bread and offered them to the two men. The guests knew some miracle had unfolded and asked Rabia to enlighten them. She explained that as she was offering them the two loaves, she worried about feeding them such a meager meal. That instant, the beggar arrived.
She offered the two loaves of bread to the beggar firmly believing that God would repay her ten-fold.
When the servant girl only came with eighteen loaves, she knew this was not the Lord’s will, so she waited until the twenty loaves arrived.
Nothing pleases me more, my child, than your service to your brothers and sisters in life. I have created you so that you may know yourself, and the best way to know yourself is to see yourself reflected in the hearts of all whom you serve. Whom you are actually seeing through your service is me, both within yourself, and within all of life. This is the secret of closeness with me that my beloved spiritual children have known for thousands of years.
I have planted this secret deep in your heart. Whenever you serve, your heart tells you through the joy you feel that you have touched the veil of something very deep inside your heart. You don’t have to serve in magnanimous ways to unearth this secret; rather, you have to dare, to intend, to make someone else’s life a little better, a little brighter.
Whatever help you ask of me in this service will be granted. I’ll come to your aid to make sure that you are able to fulfill your gift, and hence my gift, to mankind. As you serve without expectation of any reward or recognition, you’ll feel your heart open. You’ll feel my heart peeking through your heart. As you give yourself to life, you’ll give yourself to me. As you give yourself to me, you’ll give yourself to life.
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 4: EXPERIENCE
Experience your calling in action delivering your gift and changing the world. God creates every second in small and big ways.
Voice of Moshe Rabbeinu
(Moses Our Teacher)
… As the Lord had commanded, I raised my staff and stretched out my hand over the sea. Until that day, I had seen the Lord bestow sign upon sign, miracle upon miracle. In manifold ways, the Lord had showed his love for me and my people. But, what I witnessed next was larger than anything I had ever seen. A strong east wind pushed up against the sea and drove it back so that the waters literally split into two. As the Lord had promised, we crossed on dry land, with a wall of water on our right and another wall on the left. All night, the wind blew, and all night we made our way as quickly as possible to the other side.
I helped my brothers and sisters cross the sea. Even though there was urgency to this matter, my heart couldn’t resist reflecting on my journey until that momentous day. I was a slave, who had turned into a prince, who had later turned into a shepherd. That shepherd would often think about his people and their distress but could do nothing to help them. That lowly shepherd would have lived out a quiet life in the desert if the Lord had not summoned him to his purpose.
One day, the Lord called me through a burning bush to free my brothers and sisters from the enslavement of the Egyptians.
He had heard their cry, had felt my intention to help them, and had decided that the time had come for the oppression of the Egyptians to end. I remembered my utter disbelief in the Lord’s choice, that I, a lowly shepherd, would deliver this task. I had no army, no wealth, and no kingdom. Upon whose authority would I ask the Pharaoh to let my people go? The Lord had replied: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. … I will be with you.”
Truly, my Lord had been with me and had proven his glory and his love. He had raised me to a power unimagined. Though everything was done by the Lord, what the Egyptians, and even my own people heard and saw, were my voice and my hands. I had become the object of both blame as well as affection, loved as well as feared. Only I knew the complete truth: I was a mere instrument in the hands of the Lord.
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 5: RELIVE
O God, I serve myself best when I serve you best and I serve you best when I serve life best. Service is why I exist.
Voice of Shafeen
… Though I had served locally and nationally for my religious community, I didn’t experience the essence of Seva until a special elder came into my life. At one point, she had been a leader in my religious community. As she got older, she faced many trials and tribulations. She didn’t have much family surrounding her and lived alone in a senior community apartment. She lived twenty-five minutes away from our place of worship but desired to attend as often as possible. There was a ride schedule drawn up and different volunteers were approached so that the responsibility of transporting her wouldn’t fall on one person. I was assigned one day a week to transport her for evening prayers at our place of worship.
While giving her a ride, the volunteer had to be very careful not to upset her. She was very hot-tempered and just disagreeing with her on a topic of discussion could lead her to lose her cool. She was also quick to notice if a volunteer was rude or inattentive to her needs in anyway. In that case, she would scold him harshly, regardless of who was around or where it occurred. One had to keep her informed of when she would be picked up and dropped back home and be prompt at both times. She also needed help getting in and out of the car, buckling seat belts, and climbing up and down the stairs. One had to show diligence in giving her this help. There were rare occasions when she smiled or laughed and those were the most endearing moments. She truly had a beautiful smile, and when she laughed, she laughed like a child. But her general demeanor made her very unpopular at our place of worship. Most people preferred not to talk to her or deal with her in anyway.
It was on an occasion when I was assigned to give her a ride and help her that she changed my understanding and experience of service forever. We had just arrived at our place of worship. I walked over to her side of the car and helped her get out. I held her hand and walked with her to the stairs.
As I usually did, I climbed a step ahead of her and pulled her up the stairs, one step at a time.
In the middle of the stairway she stopped. I looked at her and asked, “Everything okay?” She looked back at me, and gave me one of those beautiful rare smiles. She spoke slowly: “You know, yesterday, the Lord came to me in my dreams. He asked me something. He asked me: ‘When I come to visit, will Shafeen help me up the stairs like he helps you?’ I told him, ‘Of course Lord, he definitely will.’”
Her words struck my heart. As I continued to help her up the stairs, I asked the Lord in my heart, “Dear Lord, what does this mean?” The Lord replied: “Don’t you understand, you already are helping me up the stairs. Every time, you lift her up the stairs, you lift me also. Every time, you serve her, you serve me also. Your service to any one of my children is your service to me.”
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 6: CONVERSE
My child, service is your purpose to me and through me. Life has been intended to serve itself.
Voices of Man and God
Man: O God, there are those who are fulfilling their calling, and yet are unhappy. They are struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes their own families have pushed them aside, calling them failures. What would you say to those people?
God: When you follow your calling (when I say calling, I mean the deepest desire of your heart that is an agent of change, not just for your life but the lives of others) with all your heart and all your soul, then, there’s no turning back. Then no ONE is really yours and EVERYONE is yours. Then you are operating from a divine point of view, from a divine perspective, and such a perspective is super-empowering. This perspective doesn’t care about material gains. It doesn’t care about quantity or quantifiable difference. It only cares about compassion, love, hope, empathy, seeing oneself and others in the best of light, and seeing life in the best of light.
People who espouse such a perspective will usually face trials and tribulations for two reasons. First, because some of these trials are just their lot of life, circumstances and events that they themselves have identified pre-birth, to learn from life. Second, because such people will usually break down barriers of society, barriers that have been erected sometimes for thousands of years, barriers that are part of the society’s norm. These barriers keep people from helping, loving and supporting others. Those who follow their calling challenge these barriers and norms, like my messengers did, and strive to raise society to a new norm. Because they run against the norm, they suffer. Society may discourage them by putting a lower monetary value on that work. See the plight of the teachers and the social workers in your society today. But those who are true to their hearts will persevere and will rise above the societal resistance.
I’ll not forsake those who are close to my heart. Those who follow their own hearts in serving others are the closest to my heart.
I’ll make sure that their homes are well lit, that their families are sheltered, that there’s food on the table every day. Even if their families forsake them, I’ll support them by sending them my friends to encourage them, to empower them, to show them my light and love. It’s through these special ones that life is sustained, that this universe continues to be a universe of God, and of good. As long as they have hope, they have faith, these special ones will find my light, will find inner fulfillment. Even while struggling, they’ll have joy in their hearts and be happy.
There are many examples of such people that have walked in your time, people like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. They have found ultimate fulfillment while having an immense impact on their lives and the lives of others.
PURPOSE THROUGH GOD
STAGE 7: REALIZE
I now climb the mountain of my life with clear purpose through God. I serve him by uplifting my brothers and sisters in life.
Voice of Reader
As I return back to my day to day life, I reflect on the following questions to apply lessons from this journey:
- What new insights did I receive through this journey about life and about God?
- What changes will I make in my daily life as a result of these new insights?
- How will these changes help me live a more fulfilled and meaningful life?
Adapted from John Suler, “The Nature of Things,” Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors, accessed August 8, 2015, http://truecenterpublishing.com/zenstory/onesnature.html.
Adapted from Anthony De Mello, S. J., “The Disabled Fox,” in The Song of the Bird, 2nd ed. (Anand, India: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1982), 97.
Adapted from A. J. Arberry, trans., Muslim Saints and Mystics (Ames, IA: Omphaloskepsis, 2000), 34-36.
See Exodus 3 and Exodus 14, to read more about “Moses and the Burning Bush” and “Crossing the Red Sea,” respectively.
Exodus 3:6-12 (NIV).