There once was a man who netted three trout from a mountain stream and carefully placed them side-by-side on a thick patch of grass. Before he removed them from the water, they were like a liquid ballet in motion. Fluid. Graceful. Vibrant. Alive.
After he netted them, it was another story.
As the trout lay on the grass, they were motionless. Their eyes were fixed. They gasped for air, and they looked — and acted — stupid.
The man noticed they seemed unhappy, so he talked to them, hoping that his encouragement would change them.
“Little fish, don’t be sad. You’ll like the grass. Just try it out for a while.”
No movement. No response. No change.
A few more seconds passed. The man’s neighbor walked by. “Hey, Bob! Come and check out these fish!”
Bob sauntered over and the man explained that he was certain the fish could adjust. “I’m sure they could prosper here on the grass. Don't you agree?”
“Why not?” Bob replied. So he also tried to tell the fish it would be good if they learned to like the grass. After all, he liked the grass. Why shouldn’t they?
Still, the fish didn’t blink. They just lay there looking dumber by the second.
Finally, a little boy approached exclaimed, “What are you doing? Put them back! They can’t be all they’ve been created to be when they are out of the water.”
Finally convinced, the man carefully placed each fish back in the stream. After splashing for a split second, all three swam away effortlessly. Again, it was like a liquid ballet. What ease! What grace! What beauty!
In that moment, the man realized that no matter how long the fish lay there they would never adjust to the grass, and would never be satisfied — no matter how much he (or anyone else) told them otherwise. Even if the fish tried to convince themselves they could learn to like the grass, they never would, and they would never prosper. In fact, they would eventually die.
Do you feel like a fish out of water? Your prolonged dissatisfaction, God-given gifts, passions and the voices of others could be telling you that you were created for another purpose. And like these fish, if you feel like you are dying inside, listen up. It could be just what you need to push you into another, more satisfying ocean.
Listen to your dissatisfaction
We’ve been taught to believe that dissatisfaction is a bad thing, and that we should do everything possible to avoid it. Shove it down. Ignore it. Act like it doesn’t bother us. Take a pill. Plaster on a smile. Buy something new, or decide that misery is part of “bearing our cross.” But above all, don’t consider that God might be using it to make us uncomfortable so we’ll want to swim in another ocean where our gifts can shine.
Don’t get me wrong; dissatisfaction can be a result of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-12) and not an indication that we are out of God’s will. But it can also be a road sign that He has another purpose for us. So if you’re miserable in your current career or job, (and you have been for a long time), you’ve prayed, sought counsel from others, looked for guidance through Scripture, and you’re still miserable, consider that God may have another plan.
Listen to others
One of my closest girlfriends lights up when she talks about mentoring young women. She also has tremendous business sense. I’ve suggested that perhaps God may use her to start a mentoring organization or ministry. When I shared my thoughts with her, she said, “You know, I’ve heard that from lots of people.”
Just as dissatisfaction can be a road sign from God to show you your purpose, listening to what others say about your gifts can do the same; so when someone notices or comments on one of your talents, take note. God may be trying to tell you something through His people.
There are times, however, when we shouldn’t listen to what others say. But when what they say about us agrees with our passions, internal convictions, gifting and what God has already revealed to us, it can be a solid indication of our God-given purpose.
Listen to your gifts
I’ve never liked math. Whenever I come within five feet of a math problem, I break out in hives. Numbers have never been my thing and my guess is that they never will be because God created me with different gifts. Even though I can’t do math, I can write, paint, draw, sing and communicate well. These gifts are also road signs to where God is directing me.
Have you ever considered your talents and gifts? Do you get a kick out of soccer? Are you a strategic thinker? A great listener? Can you motivate others to action with your words? Are you skilled at building things? I suggest making a list of the things and activities that interest you in which you excel. You can also ask yourself, “What’s the one thing that I do better than others?” This can also clue you in to your God-given purpose.
The gifts God gives us are like little seeds planted inside us, but for them to grow we have to use them. This means that if you can’t identify which “Gift Seeds” God has given you, try doing new things that interest you. Through these new experiences, God will reveal more to you about who you are and how He has called you to serve Him.
Listen to your passions
If I could ask you what makes you angry, joyful, excited or passionate, what would you say? Take note of when your emotions are moved; these times can be a sign of your God-given purpose.
I get fired up about the godless condition of the world. When I hear about little children being abused, I get angry. When someone tells me a story about loyal love, I am deeply moved. An exquisite arrangement of words on a page fills my heart with passion. A story of someone’s heartbreak grieves me. Talking about Christ stirs me up. When coupled with my talents, these passions point in the direction of my purpose of written and spoken communication about things that deeply impact people on a spiritual and emotional level.
Pray. Ask God to show you the things that move you and make a list. And remember, He wants you to discover His purpose for you more than you do.
Lastly, consider that your purpose is not just about you; it’s about what God wants to do through you. Therefore, if you ignore or neglect your dissatisfaction, what others say about you, your gifts and your passions, you are not only betraying yourself, but betraying God; because He has called you to a purpose and wants you to walk in it — for others and for your own joy.
Also consider that since God has called you, He is completely able to reveal your purpose to you, and He will as you diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)