God Made Me for a Purpose

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Let the people thank you, God!
    Let all the people thank you!
Let the people celebrate
        and shout with joy.

—Psalm 67:3-4

I can’t carry a tune even if I tried. And I’ve tried.

More than twenty-five years ago, at the insistence of my best friends in high school, I joined our church’s youth choir. I knew I couldn’t sing, but what better way to honor God than to join a ministry whose entire purpose was to praise? But, while my friends loved the two-hour rehearsals each week, I dreaded them. I wearied of the balancing act of singing softly lest I be outed as the one who couldn’t sing.

It only took four months of misery for me to call it quits. Although I felt relief in no longer pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I feared that if I couldn’t praise God with my voice, was I doing this “God thing” wrong?

I don’t think my adolescent wondering is unique. Haven’t we all wondered at some point if there is a “right” way to follow God?  

I spent years looking for an answer only to find it while watching the 1981 classic Chariots of Fire. The film centers on a young Scot named Eric Lidell as he struggles to figure out what it means to honor God and his own self. Eric’s family expects him to become a missionary, but his greatest joy lay in running. When his sister accuses him of abandoning God in his quest for Olympic gold, Eric tells her that to not run is to dishonor the particularity with which God made him. In a now-famous line, Eric says, “I believe God made me for a purpose. But God also made me fast. And when I run, I feel [God’s] pleasure.”

Eric knew what my teenage self couldn’t grasp (and sometimes even my adult self sometimes forgets): there is no one way to praise and honor God. The only way to get it “wrong” is to try to be someone and something you’re not.  It’s easy to live in the comparison trap, looking at our neighbors and wondering if somehow they’ve got the secret to faithful living. But God made us all unique and called us to live into the fullness of the divinity within. When we do, our lives are a fragrant offering to God.

I’ll never be able to sing. But I can write. I can hike. I can garden. I can play the oboe. I can create a sublime meal for my loved ones. Those are my forms of praise. They are how I feel God’s pleasure. As Irenaeus, father of the early church said, “the glory of God, is [humankind] fully alive.  Let us heed the restlessness of our soul and meet God’s pleasure.

— Maria Kane

Photo: “Power in the Skies,” from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tennessee. Original source.

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