When Big Questions Resurface
Who am I? What am I here for?I used to think these two great human questions could be answered once then put aside. As we prayed for direction, discovered our gifts, and pursued our passions, we would find the one big thingwe were meant to do with our lives then spend the rest of our days doing it. Now I’m not so sure. Few people in their 40s end up doing what they planned in their 20s.
For me, this realization came after two significant personal events. The first was when my wife Merryn and I spent years trying to start a family, a painful decade-long journey that ended unsuccessfully. The second was when we then moved to the United Kingdom from Australia, following a ‘consolation prize’ job opportunity for Merryn. Having had a settled identity as a ‘writer, speaker and broadcaster’, the interruption this move brought to my own career soon had me feeling like a plastic bag tossed in the breeze—adrift and directionless, asking the Who am I?What am I here for?questions all over again.
I soon discovered I wasn’t alone. When the company folds, or the marriage ends, or the accident happens, or dreams of parenthood or a career don’t come true, it’s common to rethink our identity and purpose. Maybe you’re in a season like that right now.
Think about the dreams you’ve had for your life over the years:
Which have been fulfilled?
Which are currently unfulfilled or even broken?
Why do you think times of adversity challenge our sense of identity and purpose so much?
My quest to find new identity and purpose for myself and my readers ended up being paired with a literal one—a 116-mile pilgrimage through the rugged beauty of England’s north. Walking those miles with my friend DJ, the conversations and experiences we had helped coax answers out. Not that they all came quickly. Some of those answers took years to clarify. But one lesson came early and was to define all the others that followed.
A few days before our pilgrimage, I arrived at our set-off destination to have a retreat. Settling into my simple motel room, I got down on my knees and began to pray—anguished prayers about who I was and what I was here for. I was so confused. These prayers went on for some time before being interrupted with these words:
Just be present before me, Sheridan.
There was no audible voice. The words were heard with the heart, not the ear. But they pierced my anxious thoughts with peace and recalibrated my perspective.
This is your first task in life.
It was the wake-up call I needed, one confirmed by scripture. Before I sought a new dream, identity or purpose to pursue, I had to get this truth in place: our first calling in life is to be with God. It’s the only purpose that will last for eternity.
Luke 24:13-35 tells the story of two friends on a pilgrimage. Just days before all their dreams had seemed to be coming true, but now they walk in confusion. Here are some questions to reflect on and perhaps journal about as you read their story:
How would you describe the two friend’s emotional state as they set out?
How do you imagine them feeling about their identity, purpose and future in that moment?
Name at least three things Jesus does as they journey together.
Based on this story, who does God wish you to become today?