By Chris WittsWednesday 18 Jun 2014Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
I read of an experiment that demonstrates the difference between existing by chance and living on purpose. Processionary caterpillars feed on pine needles. They move through the trees in a long procession,one leading,the others following,each with its eyes half-closed and his head snugly fitted against the rear extremity of its predecessor. The French naturalist,Jean-Henri Fabre,after patiently experimenting with a group of these caterpillars finally enticed them onto the rim of a flowerpot. He succeeded in getting the first one connected up with the last one,thus forming a complete circle,which started moving around in procession with neither a beginning nor an end. Fabre expected that after a while they would catch on to the joke,get tire of the useless march,and start off in some new direction.
But they didn’t. Instead,the living,creeping circle kept moving around the rim of the pot. Around and around,keeping the same relentless pace for seven days and seven nights until they died of exhaustion and starvation. Food was close by,but was outside the range of the circle,so the caterpillars continued along the comfortable path.
People can be like that,mistaking activity for accomplishment and movement for direction. We can follow habit to oblivion. We can be so resistant to change that we perish. If we are going nowhere we will get there soon.
So what does living on purpose mean? Let me suggest several things:
1. To Live On Purpose Means Determining Our Own Course In Life.
In his book,The Image – A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,Daniel Boorstin points out that over the past century and a half people have moved from being travellers to becoming tourists. The Old English noun “travel” was originally the same word at “travail” – trouble,work,torment. For centuries,to travel was to submit to a certain kind of torture,to do something tough.
That began to change in the middle of the 19th century. Some entrepreneur came up with the idea of marketing travel as an adventure. Thus was born the tour. Legend has it that the very first tour took place in 1838. A group of people from Wadebridge,England,travelled by special train to the nearby village of Bodmin.
There they got to have the fun of watching the hanging to two killers. Since the Bodmin gallows was in clear view of the uncovered station,the tourists had their adventure without even needing to leave their open railway carriages.
To live on purpose we need to learn the difference between being a tourist in life – going only where it’s convenient and comfortable,and a traveller – one who determines his or her own way in life and will get there even if it means blazing a new trail. One reason why so many people try to climb Mt. Everest is that they want to push themselves and do something that makes them feel alive. But we can push ourselves in moral,spiritual,and relational areas also. Consider Joshua,the Old Testament leader who challenged his people to choose their purpose in life and to stay with it. He said to them,”If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you,then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household,we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15,NIV). Joshua refused simply to exist. He chose to live.
2. To Live On Purpose Means To Take Appropriate Risks To Achieve Your Goal.
I want to underscore the word appropriate. It’s not about doing stupid things. Quite the contrary. When we examine our motives and the direction of our lives,we discover that they often seem to be drifting off course. Sometimes we need to make some changes that seem risky. But what real achievement is accomplished in the easy chair?
The acclaimed author of Roots,Alex Haley,once said about taking risks,”Nothing is more important. Too often we are taught how not to take risks. When we are children in school,for example,we are told to respect our heroes,our founders,the great people of the past. We are directed to their portraits hanging on walls and in hallways and reproduced in textbooks. What we are not told is that these leaders,who look so serene and secure in those portraits,were in fact rule-breakers. They were risk-takers in the best sense of the word; they dared to be different.”3
That’s it – dare to be different. Determine where you want to go and start. The path will have dangers and you will have to take appropriate risks. But the alternative is to stay where you are now. Is that where you want to be?
3. To Live On Purpose Means Being Open To Some surprises along the way.
To live on purpose does not mean to barrel headlong through life so intensely that you actually miss life while trying to live. Some of life’s greatest moments come as serendipity – surprises that are happy opportunities that seem to signal,”Hey,wake up. Pay attention. Be in the moment.” Someone has wisely observed,”Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away.” .
Let us live well. Let us live long. Let us live life as an adventure. But whatever else we do,let us live on purpose.