I knew what I wanted to do with my life: Save the planet. Plain and simple. Starting with my junior year in high school, I'd developed this passion (some would have called it obsession) for stopping pollution, keeping the ozone layer from melting away, and recycling whatever was recyclable. I also started an environmental club.
When the time came to start thinking about college, I knew I wanted to study something that would allow me to live out my dream. I did some research and found a school that had a respected environmental program. After graduation, I headed 500 miles away from home to study at a university that would prepare me to save the planet.
As God would have it, I soon discovered that my passion didn't give me what I was really looking for. I still felt empty and lonely inside. A couple of months before I was to head off to college, I started studying the Bible with a group of friends. I learned a lot about Jesus, and that he wanted to forgive my sins. I also discovered that God loved me. I was hooked. I discovered a new passion. While I still cared about the earth, I was changing. I suddenly had an unstoppable desire to live for God. And I wanted to help others discover the incredible change that would come through a friendship with Jesus Christ.
My passion had changed. So had my career direction. And I changed colleges. Eventually, I ended up attending a Christian school where I could learn to write about my faith. (Yes, somewhere along the way, I'd also developed a love for writing.)
That's me. My passion. My story. Now what about you?
What excites you? What's your passion? Why are you here? What's the purpose that drives your life?
And, you ask …
"What does this have to do with my college search?"
You're currently looking for a college or will soon be searching your various options. My advice: Don't even think about it until you've got this whole purpose thing down. It's the starting point—the place where all decisions should begin. Make a decision that runs counter to your purpose, and chances are you'll eventually experience a number of emotions, like: disappointment, guilt, regret.
Get your purpose down, and your college plans (and any other plans) will more easily fall into place.
From Plato to milk
Purpose-searching sounds odd, doesn't it? Like you're supposed to be a philosopher, or something. Let's forget Plato and get practical with a down-to-earth question:
What's the purpose of going to the store for Mom?
"To get a gallon of milk."
What's the purpose of taking your puppy to obedience school?
"To keep him from eating the furniture."
Some purposes are really pretty minor, aren't they? I know, you can't let your dog devour the couch. Even so, there's even a bigger purpose to figure out. Let's call it The Ultimate Reason for being here on earth. For me, during most of high school, it was about saving the planet from being destroyed by pollution. And I arranged my priorities around this purpose. It wasn't a bad purpose. But I soon discovered The Real Purpose for My Life.
Colossians puts it like this: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (3:23).
Living for God, letting him guide us, that's the Ultimate Purpose. The real reason for living. Every other purpose, every other desire, every other priority, somehow becomes less important when compared to this purpose.
But let's be real. Sometimes we let our little mini-purposes get in the way. Sometimes we get a little lost along the way.
In the fog
I remember driving down a country road once. I was headed home from a friend's house. I knew the directions well, but then I dipped down this hill and suddenly a thick blanket of fog surrounded me. It almost felt like I was in one of those horror movies.
Any moment, the car is gonna stall and that mad slasher's gonna come and …
Fantasy aside, I had a problem. Everything had disappeared. I couldn't see where I was supposed to turn next. I leaned forward, turned on my brights. The intense beam simply made the fog look, well, brighter, glaringly brighter. I coasted slowly down the road, missing turns, nearly missing curves. Totally lost.