Diapers and 2 a.m. feedings. Car seats and Legos. Preschool and playdates. These things filled my early days of parenting. I had longed for motherhood, so I embraced the busyness along with the joy.
As my children grew, things became even more hectic. My husband and I decided to homeschool our two children, so as they got older I added the responsibilities of lesson planning and teaching to the mix. Every day was filled with activity and action. Of course, I had days when I wished for more time for myself, but I loved (almost) every minute of my children’s growing-up years.
So when my youngest child graduated from high school at the same time my oldest got married, suddenly my life felt very empty. I no longer needed to correct algebra tests or plan English curriculum. I didn’t need to drive the kids to tennis meets or make sure they studied for their SATs.
I knew my children still loved me, but I wondered, If your kids don’t need daily mothering, what should a mother do? What is my purpose now?
Finding New Purpose
In the time leading up to my son’s high school graduation, I had clearly seen the end of the homeschool road and I knew I would soon need to find something to fill my time besides evaluating curriculum and correcting tests. So when an interdenominational organization asked me to fill the role of speaker for women’s events, I nervously said yes. I wondered, Could speaking become my new purpose?
I enjoyed the new challenge of speaking to women around the Midwest, but speaking engagements were few and far between, leaving many hours to fill. My son still lived at home but spent most of his time on his college campus or out with friends. My daughter called from her new home in Texas, but somehow the long-distance chats weren’t the same as sharing lunch at Olive Garden and eating our body weight in breadsticks. So, instead of lunch dates, I began to fill my time with pity parties.
I knew something needed to change. Trying to pull myself out of my misery madness, I remembered that before I began homeschooling, I had loved to write. Trying to distract myself from the gnawing ache in my heart, I started to fill pages with words. Maybe writing could become my new purpose?
“Maybe” was right. I soon became more confused and discouraged than ever. Anyone who has ventured into the publishing world knows that it has its own waiting rooms. After I had written a proposal for a book idea based on one of my presentations, I sent it out to agents and publishers—and waited. Responses slowly trickled in. Unfortunately they were all the sorry-this-does-not-meet-our-current-publishing-needs variety. Perhaps writing was not my new purpose.
Waiting for Purpose
During my time of waiting for a new purpose, I began studying the word wait in Scripture. I got out my massive concordance and began reading every verse in the Bible that contained that word. One waiting verse I turned to again and again was Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
I’m sure no one would have described me as waiting patiently. But I wanted to learn to wait well. What could King David’s words teach me?
When I read, “he inclined to me and heard my cry,” I pictured the Lord leaning in to listen to my sometimes whispered, sometimes sobbing pleas. Even though I had no answers, I found comfort in knowing that God was paying attention.
I wasn’t in a “pit of destruction,” but I certainly had dug a pit of despair for myself. I had frequently used a shovel of complaining and griping. Yet, God assured me that He could get me out of my bad-tempered bog.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Maybe waiting well meant glorifying God instead of grumbling. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own, but God promised to put a song in my mouth.
My waiting for purpose made a little more sense when I read the end of verse 3, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Perhaps the longer the wait, the more people would see God at work. When a publisher finally said yes or God gave me a completely different purpose, everyone would know without a doubt that God had always been working behind the scenes.
God Has a New Purpose in the Works
I had almost given up on writing as my new purpose when finally, one day, my husband and I came home from a trip and found a new message on our answering machine: “It’s our pleasure to share some good news with you—we want to publish your book! I know we said no before, but we’ve changed our minds. Call us back, and we’ll iron out details.”
That phone call began my journey of publishing Bible study books. Writing and speaking have become a new purpose in my life. For the present time, God has called me to share his transforming grace with women around the country. Looking back at my time as a homeschooling mom, I know I never would have pictured myself as a writer.
Let’s remember that when we feel we’ve lost our purpose in life, God has a new one in the works. Even though it may seem like he has forgotten us, he is leaning in and listening to our cries. Our moaning and griping may dig us deeper into pits of despair, but God can give us a new song of praise. He continues to work in our lives. What if we quit wishing for our past lives? What if we reject the idea that we can only do significant work when life looks picture perfect?
What if we use our waiting time to ask, “God what do you want me to do right now? Right here?”
Adapted from Waiting: A Bible Study on Patience, Hope, and Trust, by Sharla Fritz.