Church reformer and theologian John Calvin argued that there is no more exalted a description of a Christian than this: “We are God’s handiwork” (lit., “masterpiece”; Ephesians 2:10). Galaxies, stars, and solar systems can knock us breathless with God’s glory (Psalm 19:1), but only human beings who have experienced the miracle of a new birth are called God’s masterpiece.
Masterpieces aren’t made by run-of-the-mill craftsmen; they require the skilled hands of a genius. They are one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated gifts to the world. And that’s what you are, God’s one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-repeated gift to the world. God the Creator made you unique. Your beauty as a divine masterpiece, however, has been damaged by sin. The restoration process is lifelong, slow, and costly.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is one of history’s greatest artistic triumphs. From 1508 to 1512, the artist lay on his back and painted the creation, fall, and destruction of the human race by the flood. The images, however, started to fade almost immediately after he painted them. Within a hundred years no one remembered what the original colors really had looked like. In 1980, a scaffold was erected and plans made to clean the ceiling of Michelangelo’s priceless masterpiece. The director of the restoration project did a critical experiment using a special solution on one or two square inches at a time. For the next twelve years they cleaned the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. No one expected the results to be so stunning! No one realized Michelangelo was such a master of color — of azure, green, rose, lavender. Beneath centuries of grime and dirt, passionate colors lay buried. For the first time in over 450 years, people could view the masterpiece as it was originally intended, in all its color and beauty.
Stripping off the false layers and dirt that cover up your unique destiny and life is complex.
Parker Palmer describes it like this: Most of us arrive at a sense of self only through a long journey through alien lands. But this journey bears no resemblance to the trouble-free “travel packages” sold by the tourism industry. It is more akin to the ancient tradition of pilgrimage — “a transformative journey to a sacred center” full of hardship, darkness and peril.
Another way to discern our distinctive life is from the perspective of discovering our “sealed orders” from God. Sealed orders, historically, referred to specific written instructions given, for example, to the captain of a ship regarding his destination or mission. They are not to be opened until a specified time or place is reached. It is as if God has given each one of us sealed orders for our lives. He invites us to open them by paying attention to the little everyday things that give us life. Author Sheila Linn simply and profoundly describes this process: “When I am in touch with the special purpose of my life in carrying out my sealed orders, I have a profound feeling of consolation or rightness and my whole body relaxes. I believe the sense of rightness expresses itself physiologically because the purpose of our life is built into the very cells of our body.”
Discovering God’s special purpose for your life is a process. It’s impossible to anticipate everything we might encounter on this journey to an authentic self and a healthy spirituality.
I’ve discovered four practices that provide trustworthy guidance for this journey:
- Discover your integrity. This requires recognizing and defining what is important to you. Integrity, as I use it here, is always aligned with God’s values.
- Listen to your inner rhythm. If I neglect my relationship with God, if I go beyond my people limits, if I don’t nurture delight and joy, my soul begins to die. I get depressed. When we do finally stop and rest, our natural rhythms reassert themselves and return us back to God’s intended balance.
- Set boundaries. With whom do you need to set boundaries? The answer is simple: with everyone! This includes your mother, father, siblings, spouse, children, friends, coworkers, even your pet! Boundaries are crucial if you are to avoid detours and follow God’s path for you.
- Let go of others. To quit living someone else’s life requires not only healthy boundaries with others, but also not trying to run other people’s lives. In letting go, I do not run interference in the lives of others. Controlling the lives of others takes time and energy; it also takes the focus off your own life.
As you apply these practices, you will join an adventure with God around the joy of fulfilling your special purpose on earth.
Watch The Emotionally Healthy Woman Video:
Excerpted with permission from The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero, copyright Zondervan, 2014.
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On a scale of 1-10, how fully do you think you’re living out God’s purpose for your life? How might Geri’s four practices help you maximize what you have to offer the world for God? Come join the conversation! We’d love to hear from you on our blog!