I was sitting with a group of CEOs a couple weeks ago and the great resignation was brought up as well as the overall lack of passion in today’s workforce. All the CEO’s agreed that people are looking for a purpose in life and since they are trying to find that through their employers or products it’s turning into missed expectations and disappointments. This was an eye opening conversation that caused me to pause and reflect on my purpose in life. My purpose in life is not focused on the company I work for or the products I build. So let me walk you through my purpose in life and if you have more questions after this, lets grab a coffee and dig into the details. My purpose in life didn’t come to me over night, it was something I experienced, researched, pondered, tested and validated over many years. Identifying your purpose in life, is the single most important decision you will make as an individual. So you better get it right!
My Purpose: To build a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lord, and to share His love and story with everyone I meet.
WAIT, for those of you who just rolled your eyes and are about to head off to another website and away from this religious fanatic, let me iterate that my decision to declare my purpose in this post was not blind faith or traditions that I lean on, but a decision I came to through years of experiences and findings. As an engineer-minded individual, I typically lean on factual evidence and the scientific model for my decision making process. I have grouped my explanation below into 4 categories: exposure to this purpose, personal evidence and earthly evidence that supports this purpose and finally the conclusion.
Exposure to the purpose:
I grew up in a Christian family went to church usually three times a week, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday nights. I went to every youth group activity and many Bible studies that regularly hung out at my house. So that was the life that I knew and the family that I grew up in. I was exposed at an early age and I observed my parents and my community living this purpose.
I was a pretty stubborn and independent boy, so when I was younger, I went to youth camp where they had an altar call and all my friends went down and asked Jesus into their hearts. However, I didn’t want to go with the crowd… that wasn’t me. So I waited a couple of weeks and realized that I could see that there was a change in their lives. So that’s when I went down to the altar at church with my parents and my youth pastor and my friends beside me. So at an early age I asked Jesus into my life. Through middle school and high school I learned what the right things to do and say. I was baptized when I was 18 years old, before I went off to college. At this age, my purpose in life was built on blind faith, following in the footsteps of those whom I trusted and respected. Nothing wrong with that!
At 18, I left my family in Oklahoma and I went to a private christian university and from there I met my beautiful wife. At that point, I learned that my faith and my relationship with Christ was really based on my family’s traditions, my family’s habits, and my parents faith. So during college and early marriage, I started getting my own faith and my own relationship with Christ and got to know Him personally. This is when I started breaking away from blind faith and learned more about a personal relationship with Christ. A personal relationship meant I had conversations through prayer and listened to Him through the Holy Spirit and His word found in the Bible.
After college, I started my own business, a software development company consulting to the government. We quickly moved from Nampa, ID to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg isn’t the location you dream of when you are young, adventurous and like the outdoors. Winnipeg has three months of 80 degree weather and hoards of mosquitos and nine months of freezing weather that can kill you in less than 5 minutes of exposure. So it wasn’t a great place to live but we were away from our families and college, where the traditions changed, the habits changed and I started falling away from my personal relationship with Jesus. He wasn’t a part of my daily life. My daily actions were no longer supporting my life’s purpose.
After living in Winnipeg for a few years, we knew we wanted to move, so we decided to take a year off and go backpacking before landing in our new location. We backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail for about 4 months when I noticed a large lump on me that I thought I should get checked out. We left the trail and went to visit a doctor in Salem, Oregon. The doctor quickly diagnosed me with testicular cancer and I immediately had surgery and started my treatments. So, it was time to ask God a lot of question: Why did this happen? I’m a good person, I’ve come from a good family, I’ve done the right things, I have the right habits, I read the Bible and I go to church regularly. So why is this happening to me? Why can’t You use me as a person? Why do I have cancer right now? When you ask God questions like that… He doesn’t give you all the answers at once. He allows you to explore finding the answers in His word by asking the right questions and identifying His character. This takes time to listen and hear how He responds. So when you have cancer, you have a lot of time to think about those type of questions. So I started reading a book called the Purpose Driven Life and it motivated me to make something of my life and do something on purpose. It clearly called out that my life has a purpose and I should declare it more intentionally. On purpose for Jesus. I reviewed my current skills and experiences: I’m a software developer, I’m a risk-taker and I like to be independent. That led to one thing, I’m gonna start a company and I’m gonna write church management software. How best to use my skills for the Lord and how to make me live my life with a tangible deliverable. The personal evidence I’ll call out here is the clear calling received from Him that gave me direction in my life when cancer was staring me down and making me doubt my next steps.
So I started a company and began writing church management software, we moved to Bend, Oregon and went through a lot of our savings. I started getting my life a little more stable, attending church, plugging into small groups and started being successful in our church management software. So now that my pragmatic purpose was unfolding I wanted to control the next part of my life. I am a planner, organizer, control freak and independent person. So, I told God that now is the time we want to have kids. It’s been a couple years since the cancer treatments, I was procreationally handicapped and my wife also had some medical challenges. So it was going to be difficult journey. We started praying, we went to the doctors and received medication and the months starting going by. A few more months went by, then a year went by. We told God that this timing was right, so why are we waiting so long? We have a great support system, some financial stability, we are at the right age and we think we would be great parents. So God, why aren’t you giving us kids? So we started taking more medication. We took way more medication than the doctors wanted us to take, which was unhealthy for our bodies. But then after a couple of years we were blessed with our first daughter, Alexa. Then a couple of more years we were blessed with Morgan. Then a couple more years went by we were blessed with Hadley and finally a couple more years went by and we were blessed with our twin girls, McKinley and Sierra! Then we said, okay God, enough blessings! The personal evidence I want to highlight here is the patience, understanding and contentment He provided us during this difficult time. This contentment that we receive in Him re-assures us that He is in control and that our life should be to continue to follow the purpose He has provided.
My next personal evidence for following the right purpose in my life came after a few more years. While the rugrats were keeping my wife busy, my business was becoming more successful and a huge opportunity came up. This opportunity was going to take us from a small 5 person company to a 40-50 person company overnight. At this point we had about 300 churches using the software and if this opportunity came through, I was gonna be able to release our software to about 20,000 churches. The opportunity required a lot of time and financial investment. The contract was successfully signed so I put all my efforts to seeing this through. I invested about a half million dollars. We hired up to about 18 employees to get the software done and ready to go. But shortly before we delivered it to the churches, the contract fell apart as the customer came into financial stress. It didn’t come to fruition and I didn’t know what to do. I immediately turned to God and said, God, this was your software. This was my purpose in life. What are you doing? Did I not listen to what you told me to do? Why would you not want me to help thousands of churches? Why do I need to fire dozens of employees and figure out how to pay back a large loan? I asked God if I was worthless to Him. I felt as if I wasted the last seven years of my life doing what I wanted instead of what He wanted me to do. It was a really tough time in my life because of that.
I had to put the church software on hold, I shelved it and we started looking for revenue from other ways. At that point, I also had a large amount of debt to pay off. I had to let go of my employees that were working on the church software. My wife and I we’re living paycheck by paycheck. We maxed out our credit cards, we maxed out our line of credits. Finally, the time came and we had no way to pay our upcoming bills. At that time, I didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want to look unsuccessful from the outside. But we had no way to pay for anything. We ate Top Ramen and lived on WIC coupons. I finally swallowed my pride, swallowed my independence and called up my dad and said, “Dad, we have no way to pay our upcoming mortgage or utility bills”. My dads response: Ryan, if I have the money I will support you. He immediately started paying our bills. He paid our bills for over two years to help me get stabilized and turn my company around.
During that time I was able to hire a business partner to come onboard and help me with sales and finance. My partner onboarded, bringing potential clients, a wealth of startup knowledge and amazing business advice. We grew the software consulting business, became more stable and started growing. I was able to pay my dad back and everything was looking great. However, I didn’t know what my purpose was anymore, the church software was still shelved and I didn’t have that personal relationship every day to understand what Jesus really wanted me to do with my life. Slowly, I found that I could continue to fulfill my purpose by being the person I wanted to be focusing on the relationships with employees and clients, and the purpose didn’t have to be something tangible or created. Those relationships grew close, trust was built and that allowed me to start witnessing and sharing His word with the relationships I built. In reflection, I found that I interpreted my day to day activities of writing church software to be my implied purpose and missed the bigger picture. So the purpose came back to me as I realized that in everything and anything I do, I can fulfill His mission. You can read more about this chapter in my life in my Hello World blog where I share about the transition I went through when I sold my company. The personal evidence that I experienced is God providing when I acknowledged Him and sought his guidance. Sometimes he supports us through our parents, friends and sometimes not in the way we expect, but He always provides if we are acknowledging Him in all we do, trust Him and live for His purpose.
These personal experiences have built enough evidence for me to say this was the right purpose for my life.
Evidence found in the world:
Now lets change course and discuss the events that took place to lead me to research more of the earthly evidence that supports my purpose. To start, let tell you about my personal role model growing up. This person was involved in my life at every corner of my life from my sports coach, teacher at church, business mentor, parental advisor, financial planner… he was the whole package. Someone I could look up to and respect for all my needs. A few years ago, I received a call that would rip out my foundation and shake me to the core. My role model informed me that he had been living a lie for 40+ years and that he saw no reason to continue the charade. He no longer believed that marriage was a binding contract or that a personal relationship with Jesus was important. This stopped me dead in my tracks. My purpose, my foundation, my blind faith, my worldly common sense was based on his guidance and now this is what he said. I was speechless for a long time… I instantly started doubting the foundation of my life and my purpose in life. If he is throwing this away, should I? If he just saw this life as superficial and meaningless, what do I see? Since he was a much older man, was this the conclusion of a lot more research and personal evidence that he experienced? Who can I go to now to ask these types of questions?
So I started exploring and looking at these questions from a worldly, more scientific perspective. I won’t have space in this blog to list out all the exploration and research I did or all the answers I found. So I have highlighted a few questions that you can explore and research on your own:
- How did the universe and earth come to be? The beauty and the vastness of this universe, how does it exist without God. The amount of complexity, depth and variety of chemical compounds, how they combine to make new elements and how all that is spread out across an infinite amount of space is mind-blowing. The percentages that our earth is created with the exact details required to support our life and the events that would have to happen to create this environment are so small that science would look for another explanation of how this was really created. Many times the simple answer is the right answer, and the simple answer is that there is a higher being in charge and responsible for our universe.
- How did the variety, complexity and stability of nature come to be? How is the circle of life with every animal and plant connected in a supported and balanced way? The amount of variety of animals and plants are amazing! The percentages that evolution and nature did this on it’s own is so small, there has to be a better answer then they were just accidentally created by coincidence. This leads back to the presence of a higher being.
- Speaking of complexity, creativity and a miracle, the human body is amazing the way it’s made, from inception till death. The way our brain is made and works can only be explained by the fact that there must be a creator.
These questions plus a few more helped me confirm there was a higher being, so the next question is who is that higher being? These are some of the questions I asked myself:
- The amount and quality of history will highlight the correct higher power, so who are the major gods that history has documented?
- The Bible, the most translated book in history, the most published book in the world, how could that be based on fiction? Having scholars and historians constantly question the Bible, test the stories and facts is reassuring that people smarter than me have asked this question and will continue to ask this question.
- Is there physical evidence that supports the Bible? Many historical events documented in the Bible have been found and proven by historians and ancient artifacts found.
Answering these questions and several more by researching apologetics provided me the scientific proof that the Living God documented in the Bible was real and that if I chose my life’s purpose to be based on those facts that He will guide me everyday and create a purpose worth pursuing. To circle back and update you on my role model, he also came back to the same conclusion. He reviewed his upbringing and personal experiences and relationships and realized that he does still have the same purpose but there were definitely a few months of doubt and questioning.
My favorite part of this story is reflecting on how I know today that my purpose in life is meaningful and the right purpose for me. I know that Jesus should define my purpose because of the hope and the direction that he gave me during cancer, the peace and perseverance that he gave me on starting a business, the patience and contentment from trying to get to get pregnant, and the support and freedom that he gave me when we needing financially help. I know that Jesus is real and defines my purpose based on trusted advisors early in my life and personal evidence but also the scientific research that I did that supports His story. My purpose was found in the Bible, guided by Jesus and will not change throughout my life. How do you know where to find your purpose? What’s your purpose in life? Will your purpose in life be bigger than a product, a company or even your family? I’d love to hear the conclusions you came to.