For the most recent LEVN night, we were asked to derive a personal mission statement. To get us contemplating about who we were and what we stood for, we were told to jot down a list of twenty of our talents and twenty of our passions (i.e. things that excite us or anger us or that make us want to share whatever it is with others). Right off the bat, I struggled with this.
The truth is I have been asking myself these very same questions for the past three years and have yet to come up with an answer that satisfies me. I managed to write down twelve talents and about the same number of passions.
Looking over my talents, I didn’t really see how any of the things I wrote down were supposed to help me discern my path in life and ultimately find a paying job. The person leading our discussion told us to think of our biggest fan and what that person would say were our talents. The only person I could think of that matched that description for me was my mother. I admit thinking of her led me to write down a few talents I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of, but it still got me nowhere close to twenty. I mean, how is choreographing and performing hand motions to Vacation Bible School songs applicable to my career?
I had even more trouble coming up with my passions after the first few obvious ones like church and mathematics and music. When I considered things that angered me, I found myself writing stuff like dishonesty and unreliability. By the end, I still couldn’t conjure many things I’m passionate about.
After contemplating talents and passions, it was time to start constructing our mission statements. First, we were given a list of action verbs and told to select three of them that best described what we wanted to do in our life. Unlike the previous tasks, I didn’t find this too stressful. My words ended up being accomplish, serve, and discover. Rethinking about it, I feel these words aptly describe what I want to do.
My choice of the word “accomplish” is pretty self-explanatory, although accomplish what exactly I’m not sure, but I want to accomplish something. As for my decision to include the word “serve,” I feel that that word relates to my desire to just be helpful or to be of use or, another way to put it, to serve a purpose, but also to serve others and God. Lastly, the word “discover” speaks to my constant feeling that there is something out there, something just waiting for me beyond my grasp, something that I need to find. Maybe this feeling is my just wishful thinking that there is something more to life than life as I know it. Maybe there is nothing to find. Either way, I want to discover what life is really about and if there’s nothing more out there, then I want to discover that, too.
Next, we were told to select our core value. Our core value was described to us as that one thing that we would die for or that which is most important to us. I initially wrote down close relationships, but in recent years, I have come to realize more and more that close relationships alone don’t satisfy me. I need something else. And that something else is meaningful work. I need both. In past few years, I’ve experienced periods where I had one but not the other and then it switched. I feel it is a combination of the people in my life and what I do with my life that make life worth living.
Lastly, we were instructed to come up with the group of people or the institution that we most wanted to impact. A few groups stood out to me from the list we were given, but in the end, there was only one answer: churches. The homeless and youth also piqued my interest, but the issue of homelessness makes me sad more than anything and is such a huge problem that I’m not sure I want to make them my life’s work.
Youth actually ranks pretty high up there for me, even above homelessness. I think the reason for this is that I feel that so much or who we are as humans, or at least who I am, is due to my experiences in my youth. I feel especially strongly about church youth groups because my closest friendships were developed at church youth group, and I owe my passion for church due to people who influenced me as a youth growing up in church. Experiences and habits developed in our youth have the power to make us or break us when we reach adulthood, so I feel the youth deserve attention.
However, even with all that said about youth, I still selected churches as the one group I wanted to impact the most.
When all was said and done, my personal mission statement ended up being the following: I want to accomplish, serve, and discover close relationships and meaningful work for churches. Now, I know it doesn’t quite make sense and I intend to reword it a bit, but I feel it is a relatively apt description of who I am. What’s more, the process of coming up with it gave me a lot to think about.
For instance, if the church is the main group I want to influence, then what does that look like? What would I do in the church? Would it be my career? Or would it be something I do just in my free time? How about my interest in youth? Can that have any meaning for me? So may questions and so few answers.
St. Francis Episcopal Church