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)
When I once watched paramedics arrive at an accident within minutes, I was in awe of how quickly they had come. What if they didn't have a map? I wondered. Most likely, they would have driven in circles with a next-to-nothing chance of arriving at their destination.
Because goals are the "map” that will guide you toward your God-given purpose, without setting them you will also wander in circles without getting where you need to go.
Many people wrongly think, "Goal setting is unspiritual because it shows a lack of trust. It's not right to plan. Instead, people should wait for God to lead them.”
Granted, God doesn't want us to forge ahead in pride without consulting Him for direction. But neither does He want us to sit around without acting, because He's given us gifts and talents and has also said that we are called to do good works (Eph. 2: 8-10, Romans 12:4-8, Matthew 25:14-30).
Forging ahead without seeking God or sitting back and doing nothing can stem from fear or a lack of faith. However, setting goals and consulting with Him shows that you trust Him and believe that He is able to lead you while you are moving forward.
My mother talks in details. If you meet her, she probably won't just tell you she purchased fabric for her latest wall hanging. Instead, she'll tell you why she purchased the fabric, whom she was with at the store, when she did it, and how much it cost. She might say something like, "You know Mary? She's my neighbor who is married to the plumber and she has a schnauzer. Anyway, I went shopping with her today for two hours and I purchased some fabric from the store around the corner from Judy's house. You remember Judy, right? Well, the fabric has a sort of blue background with an orange pattern running through it. I just love patterns. I make a lot of quilts using them. You should try it. Anyway, the fabric was on sale, $2.99 per yard. Great deal!"
I recently heard on a radio program that my mother is a "circular communicator”—she starts with a topic, talks in a circle while adding details and then, in conclusion, she ties all the information together in a verbal bow. In years past, I wished God was more like my mother, that He would give me more details about what He wanted me to do. I was certain that more knowledge would guarantee that I wouldn't ruin my life by stepping out of His will.
Sadly, many people are like I was. They assume that God needs to give them the entire picture of how their purpose will play out before they set goals. Because they are afraid and don't trust that God is in control of their future and purpose, they demand to hear from Him in the same way that my mother talks in details. "You will become a doctor. You will go to college at Harvard where you will study brain surgery. After that, you will move to Houston, Texas, where you will immediately become a part of the staff at M.D. Anderson. You'll stay there your entire career until you retire.”
Granted, God can do anything, but my personal experience and the experiences of biblical saints reveals that God doesn't give all the details at once while we are fulfilling our purpose. Instead, He often provides just enough information to help us move forward one step at a time. This helps our faith grow. This does not mean we shouldn't set goals. Instead, it means we need to trust Him to lead us into the unknown, and that we may need to reevaluate and change our goals as He gives us more information. This is OK. It's part of having a dynamic, collaborative and exciting relationship with Him. Can you imagine if we had the future all figured out? Life would not be as exciting.
As you progress in your purpose and God reveals more information to you, keep a dialogue open with Him, pay attention to the road signs He provides along the way and listen to Him speak to you through His Word and the Holy Spirit. Then you can be confident that He will show you when you are in—and out—of His will.
There are many ways to approach goal setting. Some people look at the big picture, then break goals down into smaller chunks, and some like to take a looser approach. However, no matter how you set goals, it's important to consider the total how God made you in the process.
God created you (and every person on planet Earth) with several parts. Like a pie with separate pieces, each part is critical to who you are; and all of these parts must be considered when you set goals.
The five parts of a person include:
If you fail to give each part the proper attention and care as you reach toward your God-given purpose, you'll experience problems.
For example, because God created you as a spiritual being, He wants you to love Him with your whole heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22: 37-40). This means that your goals must agree with your spiritual convictions. If you set goals that go against what you know God asks of you, you will become fragmented emotionally and intellectually and you will lose your joy and enthusiasm.
Additionally, because God also created you to need connection with others, if you neglect the social aspect of your life and become "all work and no play” you will become out of balance and you'll most likely experience physical, emotional, social and spiritual troubles like a character I learned about when I was seven.
I learned about Mr. Bumble from A Pickle for a Nickle, one of my favorite story books. Mr. B. had full, pink cheeks, tiny eyes, a belly like St. Nick and a total Type-A ‘tude. Thankfully, he knew his purpose and was passionate about it, but he had a problem—his life was out of balance because he failed to set his goals in the context of the total person God made him to be.
Like you and I God made Mr. Bumble with a deep need to connect with others and God. He also had a body that needed care to run efficiently and a mind that needed to solve problems. But because Mr. Bumble was all work and no play, he was often cranky and irritable.
One day when "Type-A Bumble” came home after work and discovered that his neighbor boy had taught his parrot to ask over and over, "Want a pickle for a nickle?” it pushed Mr. Bumble over the edge. His red face filled an entire story book page as he ranted and raved. If Mr. Bumble hadn't neglected so many critical areas of his life, my guess is that he would have been a little less up tight—and he would have had more fun while he was fulfilling his purpose.
There's no doubt that God wants you to fulfill your purpose. In fact, it's your duty since He has given you gifts to do so. However, be mindful not to neglect any of the five areas that make up you who you are while you do His work.
Finally, remember that the world does not rest on your shoulders. You will make mistakes in setting goals. It's OK. Because God wants to see you do His will, He will teach you the way to go as you walk in faith (Psalm 32:8).
Ever since you were small, someone has been telling you what you can't do. Your mother told you that you couldn't walk down the middle of the street, your father told you that you couldn't ride your bike without reflectors and your teachers told you that you couldn't run in the hallway.
During life, there are hundreds of people who not only tell us what we cannot do, but what we can't accomplish.
"You can't be a chemist. You're not analytical enough." "You can't be a professional singer. You're not attractive enough."
"There is no way you'll make it as a teacher. You're not patient enough."
"You must be kidding! You want to be a pastor's wife? You won't be a good role model."
Sadly, we often fear the criticism of others and when it does happen, we take it to heart. For this reason, even into adulthood, we're often waiting for someone to tell us it's OK to "cross the street" to our God-given purpose because we are afraid that if we blow it we'll look like an idiot—and then what will they say?
If God is for you, who can be against you?
Several years ago, I realized I'd been waiting for someone to encourage me to write a book. I thought if another, more successful writer validated me, then I could start moving toward the dream that God had placed in my heart. Deep down I didn't want to look foolish. One day as I browsed the bookstore for inspiration from an accomplished writer, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, "Why are you looking for a leader outside yourself? Write what I have given you."
No matter who you are, or what you want to accomplish, the only leader you need to move toward your purpose is the Holy Spirit. If God is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31). Which also begs the question, "Why do we fear criticism?"
Even Jesus knew when to ignore naysayers who wanted to prevent Him from accomplishing His purpose. In Luke 4:30, those in His hometown became furious when He said He was sent by God. To destroy Him, they drove Him out of town to the top of a hill so they could throw Him over a cliff. What did Jesus do? He walked through the crowd and went His way.
Because He knew who He was and who His Father was, He decided He would "cross the street" to His God-given purpose, even if no one but God agreed.
Sometimes the best way to move on to God's purpose for us is to ignore negative evaluations and comments and, just like Jesus, go merrily on our way.
Peas and carrots, rice and beans, fear of criticism and self-protection.
Just as peas and carrots, rice and beans, and peanut butter and jelly go together, the fear of criticism and self-protection are also a pair. If you fear criticism—guaranteed—you're also self-protective. But there is a high price to pay for allowing the fear of criticism and self-protection to have their way in our lives and to get hold of our minds.
Can you imagine what Christ's life on earth would have been like if He had been self-protective and feared criticism?
After being mocked by political groups, old and young men and spiteful Pharisees, He would have determined who He would associate with, what He would say in His final hours on earth; and rather than keeping His mouth shut when He was falsely accused, He would have defended Himself. When His enemies spit in His face, He would have retaliated. When they called Him names, He would have called down a legion of angels to defend Him. When they marched Him to Golgatha, He would have run. And rather than laying down His life to give His all to those He loved, the redemption of the human race would have been lost in His misguided passion of self-protection and the fear of criticism.
When we fear criticism and are overly self-protective, we miss out on being a gift to others. You see, your purpose is not just about you; it's about many people that God wants to influence and help through you. So if you struggle with criticism and self-protection, get alone with God and ask Him to give you the strength you need to move forward in your purpose in faith. And remember, you are living your life for the approval of just One.
Even the saints experienced criticism.
Throughout Scripture, men and women who were called to do something significant for God experienced criticism.
When Moses led the children of Israel through the desert, he cried out to God many times because those who followed him blamed and criticized him.
Noah's neighbors laughed and mocked him when he built the ark. Paul was labeled as overzealous, unimpressive in person and insincere. Every one of the disciples was criticized and, with the exception of John, all were criticized right to their deaths.
The point is this: If we insist on being comfortable by avoiding the criticism of others, we will not fulfill the purpose that God has for us. Even though comfort and freedom from criticism is on our checklist it's not on God's. His is a higher standard of virtue and redemption.
Remember you're in a battle.
In his book, "The Believer's Armor," John MacArthur writes, "You have all the resources, power and principles to live the Christian life. . . Even though power is available to follow godly principles, the enemy wants to withstand any good thing that God sets out to do. He will attempt to thwart God's divine purpose for your life."
As you can see, one of the main ways that Satan wants to thwart your purpose is by causing you to fear criticism. But God wants to provide you with the courage you need to say no to the fear of criticism and yes to Him. Isaiah 53:4 says that Jesus was despised, rejected and not esteemed; so He knows full well the battle that rages against us with criticism.
The question is this: Will you hold His hand, look the fear of criticism in the eye, step out in faith and live out your God-given purpose for the sake of others and for Christ?
He's waiting for you to say yes.
Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo. (www.runtogodministries.org)
When I was 21, I lived in London as a college exchange student. During my stay in England, it exhilarated me to hop on the train, travel to a part of the city I hadn’t seen before and wander around without an agenda.
My roommate, on the other hand, was a planner. She needed to know why she was going somewhere, how to get there and what to do once she arrived. One evening, when we were supposed to attend a concert, my roomie was naturally in charge of getting us there, so she had a map.
Only something went wrong.
We got lost and for over 90 minutes we wandered the streets of London without a clue where we were headed. Sure, I wanted to see the concert, but after a while I thought, “That’s OK, if we can’t, we can do something else.”
My roommate, on the other hand, was exasperated. She kicked a cement post in the middle of the sidewalk several times while shouting expletives. I was certain she had broken her toes. We eventually found the concert and made our way home with her toes (thankfully) uninjured.
Understandably, my roommate felt that the trip from our apartment to the concert should have been a straight line, like the one an arrow makes to a bull’s-eye. Instead, it was like the trip a bee makes from one flower to another—in loop-de-loops and circles.
When God is revealing bits and pieces of your purpose through the seasons of your life, remember that even if He has told you how you will ultimately serve Him, it doesn’t mean that the fulfillment of your purpose will happen in a straight line. Instead, you might feel like you are going in loop-de-loops and circles, like you are wandering. This is OK. God won’t waste any of your experiences (Romans 8:28). And even if some of your “circles” seem unrelated to God’s calling, He will weave them in to His purpose for your life. Rest assured, He is still in control and will perfect that which concerns you (Psalm 138:8).
Joseph must have known what it felt like to wander in circles. In Genesis, God showed him through dreams that his brothers would bow down and worship him (Gen. 37:5-6). It wasn’t until many years later after being sold into slavery by his brothers, serving Potiphar for 10 years, being thrown into prison for two years (after Potiphar’s wife accused him of trying to rape her) and becoming the Prime Minister of Egypt that Joseph’s brothers finally did do just as his dreams revealed. Scripture reveals that God had His hand on Joseph all along—just as He has His hand on you.
If Joseph’s trip from slavery to seeing his dreams materialize wasn’t a straight line for him, then why should we expect that it will be for us? But we have a problem, right? We’re often not comfortable with wandering; and like my roomie, we may become frustrated because we want to see our purpose fulfilled now.
Remember that fulfilling your God-given purpose is a journey, not a destination; it’s a process which includes preparation (which feel like pit stops) and delays (which feel like detours). But God is never in a hurry, He’s always in control and is completely able to get you where we need to go to complete in you what He started (Phil. 1:6).
While God is unfolding your purpose, sometimes you may not only feel like you are wandering in circles, but you’ll also have to do some waiting—but that’s not a bad thing.
Waiting can be filled with anticipation.
There are few things more painful that waiting for God to reveal our purpose—especially if we wait without hope. Without hope, waiting for God to act can feel like torture. But with confidence in Him, waiting can feel like joyful anticipation. Isaiah 30:18 says, "Blessed are all who wait for Him." Part of the definition of "wait," which is the word chakah in the original Old Testament Hebrew, means to wait "in ambush." Just thinking about this definition makes me smile. Imagine it.
Waiting in ambush for God is like a happy-faced dog who knows his master is coming home; so he stays by the door, ready to pounce when he arrives. It's like a young woman who counts the minutes for her to date to show up for the prom. It's like a freckle-faced boy who anticipates Christmas and counts down the days. Waiting God's way, for Him to show us where we belong serving Him, means we have hope because we know that something good is going to happen--in God's time, in God's way. When faith replaces distrust, the agony of waiting can turn into hopeful anticipation.
Waiting in ambush for God means, I'm fully convinced that He is working behind the scenes. In it, I allow my heart to dream about the goodness that will be mine
after my wait is over. On the contrary, when I wait without believing that my purpose will become reality, my future hopes are not hope at all, but despair. The end result of waiting in faith is always a reward; but if we wait without hope we may act out of our unbelief through sin and walk away from God’s plans for our lives.
To wait in ambush for God means, I may have to choose to trust Him God while He unfolds more and more of His plan for my life. I may have to ask myself, "Shana, what do you believe? Do you believe that God is working behind the scenes? Will you choose to trust that He will reveal the totality of His perfect plan? If so, lift up your head, girl! God is on His way!"
What about you? Are you waiting for Christ to reveal more of His plans for your purpose? Lift up your head and wait in ambush for God! He’s on His way and wants you to know why He made you more than you do.
My personal experience has shown me that God is more than able to lead you into your purpose. Without your help, He is able to guide you exactly where you need to go; your job is to remain open to what He wants to do through you while you wander and wait.
A few months after my father died, I met him in a farmer's field scattered with carnival rides, craft tables and food booths where he told me a secret about heaven. While I was surprised to see him, I wasn't surprised to see him there, because it was when he was happiest—barbecuing a side of beef, wearing an apron, toting a carving knife and inviting small-town carnival goers to sample his secret sauce.
At first, I couldn't believe it was him. When I saw him from the back many yards away, I thought, That can't be Dad because he died! Then as he strode toward me, excitement engulfed me. Oh, my gosh! It's him! His smile beamed as the sun glistened on his wire-frame glasses. True to form, he wore socks that didn't match his shorts with legs that needed to see more of summer. When he reached me, he smiled broadly and said, "Well, hi Shana!" I was surprised that he acted as if he hadn't died and that no time had passed at all. He placed his foot on the curb next to me and bent down to tie his shoe. I gazed at him in awe. I intuitively knew I would only have a short time to say what was most important to me, so I spoke quickly.
Because I wanted him to thank him for his care, I said, "Dad, I want you to know that I took the money that you left, paid off all my bills and I invested the rest of it." He stood up, looked me straight in the eye and grinned, "Well Shana, I'm proud of you!" My heart melted. He said what I wanted to hear my entire life—he was proud. My chest ached with tears that wanted to come out but didn't.
Then he shared something I needed to know about eternity, "You know what I've learned?" he quipped. "I've learned that it really does matter in heaven what you do on the earth."
And then he was gone—quicker than he had come.
When I woke from my dream, my eyes filled with tears and I quickly found my journal to record the message for a future time. That time is now. You see, my father's message wasn't just for me—it's also for you because the Bible echoes my father's statement about heaven.
What the Bible says about your purpose and eternity
In his book, "Driven by Eternity," John Bevere writes how important it is to plan for our eternal future. Of those who plan for forever with God, John writes, ". . . they live with purpose and know their eternal destiny is being written by how they live on the earth. This will provide them a grand entrance into the Kingdom of God, rather than them slipping in with all they've done burned up and destroyed."
What? Burned up? Destroyed? What is John talking about? He is referring to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 which reads:
"If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his will work will be shown for what it is, because the Day [when Jesus Christ returns] will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping the flames."
Building with gold, silver and costly stones means "building on Christ" by obeying Him and His calling (or purpose) for your life. Building with wood, hay or straw means following your own fleshly desires to live life your own way regardless of God's plan. Can you imagine working your entire life, doing good works and accomplishing things that you thought would matter to God, then finally meeting him face-to-face only to realize that you were only doing what sounded good to you and that you weren't "building on Christ" at all?
Granted, no one builds entirely on Christ because we often sin and we are generally selfish. For this reason, I'm glad that salvation does not depend on works (Eph. 2:8-9), instead, we are justified through the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). But as you can see, heavenly rewards do depend on works and those rewards we will be a direct result of how we lived on the earth, just as my father said. Perhaps these heavenly rewards are a reason why Paul exhorted the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
All of this doesn't mean that if you are a stay-at-home mom that you should feel guilty or that "I should be doing more for Christ." Neither does it mean that if you are not in the ministry that you should run out to become a missionary. Instead, remember that God's rewards will be granted based on obedience to fulfill whatever vocation or purpose He has called you to, whether you're a doctor, teacher, stay-at home mom or landscaper. Therefore, your life's purpose must begin and end with Him. So when He reveals what He wants you to do with your life, do it wholeheartedly! Then, when you come into His Kingdom, you will hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21).
Remember, love is big in God's book
Maybe you're thinking, But I have no idea what my purpose is. God hasn't revealed it to me yet. Be encouraged! While you are waiting for Christ to reveal His entire plan for you, you can still build on the foundation He is by living out what He says is the greatest gift of all—love (1 Cor. 13:13).
I once read a story about a man who gave his sister a very small gift and God noticed it, too. The man, a high-dollar philanthropist, was also a mover and a shaker in higher education. Unexpectedly, he became ill and died for a few moments. At this time, Christ appeared to him in a dream to show him scenes from his life. While reviewing each scene, Christ revealed the value He placed on each of the man's actions. Surprisingly, Jesus didn't do cartwheels because the man had given away large sums of money. And He didn't say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," when He reviewed the man's academic achievements. Rather, it was a simple encounter the man had with his sister that pleased the Lord.
One day when the man noticed that his sister was heartbroken in an effort to comfort her, he embraced her tight for a long time. In Christ's book, this was the man's greatest accomplishment.
While you are seeking God to reveal your life's purpose, sometimes little acts of love can seem mundane and unimportant, like helping your husband balance the checkbook, choosing to have patience with one of your children or reaching out to a neighbor that you find less than desirable. But remember, God notices. So the next time you're beating yourself up because you're not sure of His purpose for your life, think of this man and his brotherly embrace. Then smile, because if you are building your life on Christ with love, what you do will matter for eternity.
A friend of mine recently led me into his garage to show me how he planned to rewire it. He said he wants to a run cord around the floor for the job. He spoke to me for several minutes and that’s all I grasped. Wiring. Cord. Floor. My eyes glazed over and my brain went to sleep after the word “wire.” Why? Because God did not wire my brain for wires. Not only that, but I haven’t taken a math course since I was 15; I break out in hives whenever I have to put a puzzle together, and science experiments put me into a coma. Got the picture? I am a total "blonde" when it comes to anything technical, scientific or mathematic. There’s no doubt, God didn’t create me to be Analytical.
Now, imagine if a man named Kevin asks to meet with me because God has shown him that it’s his purpose to build houses for impoverished peoples in Third World countries. He can’t wait to share his vision with me, and hopes to enlist me to help.
As we converse, he shares how each home will be constructed, new technology that will be implemented and how he plans to use recycled materials and that millions of dollars will also be saved through employing locals. Kevin, obviously Analytical, is thrilled, but when he finally stops to take a breath, he notices that I’m about as excited as a bar of soap.
He frowns because he knows his communication has been unsuccessful.
Thankfully, he remembers something he learned about communicating with different personality types; so he decides to take another approach. This time, he asks me a few questions before diving into his presentation. “Shana, what do you like to do in your spare time?”
“I like to paint, draw, write and journal.”
“Great. That’s interesting.”
“If you had a choice between conceptualizing a project verses implementing the details, which would it be?”
“Oh, definitely conceptualizing.”
“You sound like a big idea person.”
“If you could say one thing about time, what would that one thing be?”
“It’s precious and you better make the most of it.”
“Would you say that you like deadlines, or do you prefer to work without them?”
“Are you kidding? I need deadlines or I wouldn’t get anything done. Ideally, I’d prefer to work without them, but it’s not realistic. Deadlines keep me efficient. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I’m just trying to figure out which Personality Quadrant you fit in so I can communicate my ideas to you more effectively.”
“OK, so which Quadrant do I fit in?”
“You’re definitely an Expressive-Driver combination but I was communicating to you as if God made you an Analytical. Do you mind if we start over?”
This time, Kevin begins by telling me about the scope of the project, he explains that thousands of lives will changed, that families will bond to a community and that he also needs a visionary to strategically plan the “big idea.”
When he was finished, I had been transformed from a bar of soap to a chili pepper—on fire and hot for his ideas—all because he spoke to me about his purpose and vision based on my personality and how God made me.
Has God shown you your God-given purpose? Do you want to communicate your vision to others effectively for emotional, financial, spiritual or physical support? No doubt, understanding how God created different people’s personalities is critical to communicate your ideas effectively.
It takes more than knowledge about what you do to move others to action—it takes understanding personality types.
The four personality quadrants
All of these tests gave me insight into myself and helped me understand more about how God made me. But only one has helped me understand how to communicate my passions and purpose to others.
The four quadrants are part of a system that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s called the Social Styles Profiling Method. Many people prefer to use it rather than other personality tests because of its simplicity and the ability to apply it in conversation during even first visits.
Do you wonder where you fit? Here are some simple descriptions of the four types.
Drivers: Know what they want, where they are going and how to get there quickly.
Drivers tend to be focused on results. They want to do things efficiently and effectively and they are typically more organized than their Expressive friends.
Expressive: Appear communicative, warm, approachable and competitive. They involve other people with their feelings and thoughts.
Expressives are motivated by applause because they feel good when others show appreciation for what they have done. They are often motivated by a large vision and they like to get involved in the “big picture.” They typically don’t like details.
Amiable: Place a high priority on friendships, close relationships and cooperative behavior. They appear to get involved in feelings and relations between people.
Amiables are motivated by consensus, peace and a lack of conflict.
Analytical: Live life according to facts, principles, logic and consistency. These folks are often viewed as distant and detached but they seem to be cooperative in their actions as long as they can have some independence in organizing their own efforts and ideas.
Analyticals focus on process and they are all about doing something right. Many Analyticals love science, math, can create chemical concoctions and build things. These are the engineers and systems analysts of our world.
What does all this mean?
As I stated earlier, if you are speaking to an Analytical, but are talking to them like they are an Expressive, you will have problems because Analyticals need numbers, facts and scientific information. They need evidence to back up what you are saying. If you are speaking with Expressives, you wouldn’t want to talk to them like they are a Driver—all methods, measurements and how-tos. Instead, they want the big picture.
Keep in mind as you are speaking to people about your passions and God-given purpose not to pigeonhole people. No one is all Analytical or a total Expressive. God has typically created everyone as some kind of combination.
Also keep in mind that the best way to discover how to communicate with someone is to do as Kevin did in our story. He asked questions that would help him determine which quadrant I might be in. Then, he shared information with me that would be of interest to me about his vision.
If you implement the Four-Quadrant model in your communication, you’ll find that your conversations are much more exciting. And, you’ll experience what Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author and wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh, said, "Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”
If God has revealed His purpose for your life and you feel that it is more than you can achieve, consider the power and gift of your God-given imagination. Through it, God can make your purpose happen !
Through imagination things are created.
Albert Einstein said, "Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions." And in the 1950s, author Napolean Hill wrote, "The imagination is literally the workshop wherein are fashioned all plans created by man."
Truly, everything that has been created by mankind: skyscrapers, skis, cars, computers, buildings, boulevards, coffee cups, cotton balls and even things immaterial such as concepts and philosophies all began in the mind of someone before they became reality.
Indeed, God is the Creator and He has blessed us with minds to create, too, through the power of imagination.
Don't get me wrong; I don't believe that we can manipulate our lives through thought to the point that we can become our own god and make anything happen that we want. Thankfully, God is far too sovereign for that! Instead, imagination is a tool whereby we cooperate with Him to participate in His divine nature and fulfill our God-given purpose.
Imagination diminishes and eliminates the perception of obstacles.
When I was 21, I traveled overseas alone to London, England to participate in a studies abroad program through my university. The night before I boarded the plane, I knew that I would soon see the Tower of London, ride in "The Tube" and drink a lot of tea—but there was something very important that I didn't know.
I had planned to immediately move in with my host family, but a change of holiday plans for them meant a change of plans for me. So 12 hours before I was to board my flight, I didn't know where I would stay the first 14 days in the sprawling metropolis. Surprisingly, I wasn't worried. Instead, I prayed and asked God to give me a room when I arrived.
To my joy and delight, a college acquaintance from London whom I hadn't heard from in almost a year just "happened" to call within the hour to chat. After I told him about my situation, he offered to contact his sister to have her pick me up at the airport and also make arrangements for me to temporarily stay with his family.
Surprisingly, through the uncertainty of my living arrangements, traveling overseas alone, and venturing into a vast unknown, I wasn't afraid. I've often wondered why. My best answer is that I was filled with an excitement that had been born out of imagination. You see, I had imagined for many months what it would be like living overseas. I checked out library books about England, watched videos about the culture, and spoke with friends who had been there. As a result, all of my "imagining" created excitement in me which eclipsed any fears I may have had.
In I Samuel 17, the height of Goliath is mentioned in cubits. Some people believe he was 9'9" and others think he was 6'6". Either way, because his height was mentioned shows that it was out of the ordinary and a big deal—except to David.
Because David was consumed with his God-given purpose to slay Goliath, he imagined what it would be like to take down the giant and, as a result, he was excited. He shouted and mocked his enemies and proclaimed God's name. Therefore, he was not intimidated by the apparent obstacle of Goliath's size.
When imagination and excitement are mixed together, you will either not notice obstacles or they will be largely diminished—and, therefore, your courage will increase! This is important to remember as you pursue your God-given purpose.
Imagination is fueled through input.
By now you might be wondering how you can fuel your imagination so that your excitement, inspiration and courage grow.
There are many ways, but the main thing to remember is that imagination is often fueled through input that comes through suggestions from outside sources.
As an example, several months ago I had been thinking about God's purpose for our lives. Then I spoke with a man at a coffee shop who asked me if I'd seen a video about a guy who watched some beautiful fish swim and then thought, "Wow! This is what they were created for!" I told him no and our conversation turned to another topic.
The brief image the man painted of fish gracefully swimming stuck with me, and over the next week, my mind chewed on it while I took a shower, drove and worked out. A week later, when I sat down to write, a story about purpose flowed out of me with the fish he described as the main anecdote.
What I experienced was a suggestion from another person, which fueled my imagination. So, if you are stumped on how to solve a problem relating to your purpose, remember that imagination is fueled through input (or suggestions) from outside sources. This can include people, books, movies or any way that thoughts from others are received.
Imagination increases your mind
Imagination increases after your mind has been exposed to a problem and it is at play.I took a college graphic design class in which my professor presented many problems to us. He asked us to render a large object, small; to reproduce musical notes in artwork without using the notes, and to make a brown paper bag into a piece of art.
After professor Wada presented any problem, he required that we make a "What if?" list of possible solutions. Then, he insisted that we wait at least 24 hours before beginning the assignment. Why? Because he knew that after we focused on a problem, our minds would begin to work on it while they were relaxed or "at play." He was always right. I got my best ideas when I was relaxing in the shower, daydreaming on the walk to school or sauntering to my next class.
As you pursue your God-given purpose, there will be plenty of problems to solve. To effectively tackle them, you can use the same principles that I used in design class.
If you know when you are the most creative, such as taking a walk or reading a book, make arrangements for these situations to happen. And most importantly, have a pen and paper handy for quick note taking. Before you know it, God will have given you ideas on how to proceed through His gift of imagination.
There's no doubt that God gave us an amazing gift when He gave us this gift. I encourage you to ask Him to help you make the most of it to fulfill the purpose He has for your life!