The Dangers of Pursuing Purpose before Identity

I know what it’s like to want someone to notice you.

Not in a romantic way, but in an intimate, soul-searching kind of way. I know what it’s like to want to be seen – beyond the frivolous and the obvious, beyond the external and the spoken – for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be deeply known, and deeply loved. Not for who I often pretended to be, but for who I had an inkling that I was deep, deep down on the inside. I wanted someone to call her name, to draw her forth, to extend a hand into the recess of my mind I’d placed her in and tell her it was okay to take her rightful place in the seat of my identity.

I wanted that. But I didn’t know then that what I was really yearning for – that kind of intimacy and authenticity – is only found in relationship with Yahshua.

I spent the majority of my 25 year life silently seeking to be known deeply, and sometimes that search led me to become a version of myself that would get something that felt like validation, but was never big enough to seal the gaping hole that existed in my self-esteem. I think it’s important that we know and understand that true validation, true stamps of approval and the true definition of success can only be found in relationship with Yahshua.

I think a lot of people are in pursuit of purpose for the wrong reason. And I can tell you this not only because Yahweh placed it on my heart to write about, but because He showed it to me in my own past.

Purpose cannot manifest unless you’re aligned, and when you’re aligned amazing things happen. Never mind what Crystal Evans Hurst calls the Hidden Years, when you’re laboring all by yourself, with no spotlight and no pats on the back. Let’s focus on the positives of the pursuit of purpose for now.

At some point, there may be recognition, there may be a platform, there may be a sphere of influence, there may be excessive compliments, awards, and extensive recognition. When you walk in the light of what you were put on this earth to do, people may know your name, fawn over you, and it will more than likely make you feel pretty great.

I want us to be careful not to use our ministries like watering holes where people come and have their need met, and we feel a sense of belonging and completeness that hinges solely on their coming in the first place. We have to resist the urge to smother our incompleteness with applause. We have to be brave enough to admit when we’re using the gifts and talents that are tools of our purpose and meant to bring Yahweh glory to silence the voice of inadequacy.

When Yahweh brought this to me, He took me back to when I first began thinking about purpose. The reason why I wanted to know what I was put on earth to do is because I wanted to finally be good at something. I wanted to run after something fool-proof, I wanted to put my hands to something I wouldn’t fail at, something that would get me the applause of people and assuage the growing sense of unrest I had about never being good enough, about missing my life’s purpose and perpetually sucking at everything I decided to pursue. I was failing miserably at studying to be a Civil Engineer, and that was my first mistake – running from instead of running toward. I was being led by fear, not intentionality. I wanted to use purpose the same way I had used the manipulated compliments of others when I was a teenager – to identify me.

I write, I am a writer, and I believe that writing is a big portion of my purpose, but I do not believe that my ability to weave words is who I am. If my fingers are broken off tomorrow, if I am paralyzed from the neck down and can no longer write, if I am made mute and deaf, or I am somehow rendered incapable of weaving the words I love, I sincerely believe that my identity remains the same.

I am still loved by Yahweh. That is still the only thing that determines my worth. That is still the absolute zero of my life – the place from which I know I can rebuild again and again, no matter what massacre, tragedy, or complete chaos destroys what I’ve built. I can always start there. I am loved by Yahweh. No strings attached, no conditions, nothing. My life is hinged on this fact, but it remains free-standing and independent of every decision I have and will make, is unaffected by all my flaws and short comings, existed before the beginning of time and the conceptualization and manifestation of my physical self.

My identity existed before I did. And it will remain – no matter what.

When I began pursuing purpose from this posture instead of desperation-bred anxiety about finally feeling okay and wanting to be good at something, locked doors began to open up inside of me.

If you are attempting to figure out why you are here without first determining who you are, you may stumble upon a segment of your purpose, but even that segment may destroy you. The reason for that is because your aligned, and identified self is really the only version of you capable of handling the weight and glory associated with your complete purpose. Any other version of you will lead to inconsistency, self-condemnation, instability, resentment, and perpetual feelings of inadequacy.

Knowing why you’re here won’t fix the fact that you don’t like yourself. And ministering for the applause of people is performance, not purpose. The very first thing that Yahweh had to work on in me when I started writing was the fear of man and the need for external approval and validation.

It’s something I am constantly bringing before Him in prayer – because the fact of the matter is, everyone won’t like you. Purpose isn’t all fun and games. Being a prophet is cool until the people want to kill you because what Yahweh said isn’t really what they want to hear. Being a musician is all good and well until Yahweh calls you to write music that stands in opposition to the widely accepted entertainment industry. Being a saved politician is great until Yahweh reveals to you that you are there to shine light on corruption and lift up a standard of unflinching integrity that infringes on the way people have done business for decades. And being a writer gets you a lot of likes on the Gram and a lot of shares on Facebook until you begin to consistently write words that aren’t your own, but speak to the aching places of people that they have learned to mask with fear, anger, repression, aggression, and hateful expression.

It’s fun until it isn’t. And it’s inspiring until your consistent admonition for self-reflection and righteous living lead to no shares, and no views, and no likes. You need to know who you are because those things cannot tell you that. You have to be able to produce even when what you’re feeding isn’t turning around and feeding your ego.

You cannot depend on the fruits of your calling to make you feel like all is well – you have to believe beforehand that all will be well, no matter what people say or what they do.

Yes, there may be more love than hate, and yes you may be held in high esteem because of what you bring forth, but your worth should never, ever depend on the reactions of other people, no matter how sincere or lovely.

Don’t give anything or anyone the power to dictate your sense of self besides Yahweh – the one who sees and loves you the same no matter what you can and cannot do.

Get to know Him, then let Him tell you who you are, then begin to run after what He’s called you to do. That’s the order of alignment, and I pray you have the courage to be honest with yourself about your motives for wanting to know what you were created to do.

Purpose is more than a career – it is a state of mind, a vehicle that only drives down the road that you specifically were meant to travel in order to impact this created world in the way that only you can and are destined to. Sometimes the vehicle is a job, and sometimes it’s a relationship. Sometimes it’s an example or a decision that drives us down destiny’s road. Whatever it is, your identity is what fuels it. What identifies you is what will continue to be your source when it’s dark, and no one is supporting you. Identity is the gas that allows you to keep driving down destiny’s road when compliments grow lean and your support system is nowhere to be found. It’s a never-ending source of fuel – self-combusting and self-sufficient. It feeds your purpose.

Are you running on empty? Go to the source. Get to know Him.

Be encouraged.

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