My eyes don’t work anymore. I can’t see a pristine building, river or person and think that it is inevitably harboring life.
My ears don’t work anymore. I can’t listen to a sermon, a song or an excuse without sifting it for transformational substance.
My hands don’t work anymore. I can’t animate them to guard my rights assuming others have the same capacity to ensure their own.
My tongue and nose don’t work anymore. I can’t taste and smell the clichéd and commercial and call it good.
For me, I was ruined in the context of working internationally. Ruined by scooting up to a round table with folks who don’t see the world the way I was taught to see it. Ruined by being the hands by which a good book makes it into an impoverished child’s backpack. Ruined by the realization that everything good in me is in spite of me and ruined by the questions I can’t help but ask. Ruined by a faith that is strong enough and supple enough to resonate with every tribe.
What is true about us? We each have circumstances that make living into purpose easy in some aspects and challenging in others. For instance, family of origin may launch us with both resources and confidence into great unknowns like higher education and travel. But we may also live through deep rejection and a history of malnourished intimacy struggling to move more fully into sharpening relationships with others. Soberly acknowledging what is true about us can be a step towards transformation.
On the mornings we wake up thinking, What am I doing here? either laughing in disbelief or clutching the bedclothes in angst, the temptation is to isolate and insulate. We resolve to live into the abundance that is ours and to normalize it by surrounding ourselves with others who think and act like us, to reject other forms that once moved us but have been found wanting. (Note: for me this happens more frequently in my hometown than in my China town.)
I may not always have the luxury of sleeping on a weighty plywood mattress crammed into the space between the corner and the door-frame for the purpose of getting up in the morning and biking in the freezing temperatures to teach English to groups with gaps in education, economy and motivation. Someday I may have to wake on a soft feather pillow, take an endlessly hot shower and drive myself to an office where my contributions are appreciated and my efforts are generously compensated. Someday I may have to live a different dream.
Our purpose is often packaged in a role (parenting, teaching, leading), a relationship (wife, friend, daughter, sister), or a location (urban, terraced mountains, tropics). This is risky business because even the best and most fulfilling attachments and ambitions are temporary. Purpose is both general and specific. Think in moments and years. Think globally and locally. Purpose has to be transferrable. Otherwise, we are the wanderers who actually are lost, without vision to see the gold that actually does glitter.
What context has ruined you? What purpose is transferrable for you regardless of where you are or what roles you fill?