Three women standing with arms linked

How to Differentiate Between My Purpose, My Calling, and the Different Roles That I Play

My husband and kids were gone, all my errands and housework were done, and I finally had time to do all the things that I kept saying I wanted to do.

No one to interrupt me. No distractions.

I finally had the alone time I’d been waiting for.

I thought it was what I wanted, until I realized what being alone meant.

Here I was, with hours to myself, to do whatever I wanted to do—read, watch podcasts, write, paint, or craft to my heart’s content. Yet, I couldn’t shake this strange cloud of depression and loneliness that came over me.

It was as if I lost all sense of purpose. It was an unfamiliar feeling and I didn’t like it at all.

Days later, still trying to comprehend what happened, I started thinking about the distinction between my role and my purpose.

In those few lonely days, I felt like I had no sense of purpose.

For the last 19 years, one of the major roles I’ve played is mom. Later in the day, when my family returned home, so did my sense of purpose. 

It seems that somehow, my role and my purpose are connected.

And then I  started to think, what my current role as mom is no longer needed? Does that mean I no longer have purpose?

This thought scared me, especially since my kids are older and won’t be living at home that much longer. I think what I experienced was a taste of empty nest syndrome.

I came to the conclusion that I must have a sense of purpose that resides outside of my different roles.

I’ve heard it said that it isn’t healthy to find our happiness in other people, whether it be our spouse, children or a friend.

If something happens to that relationship or if they do something to let us down, our happy facade disappears. 

As I tried to pin down the unfamiliar emotions that welled up inside me during my much-anticipated, yet, surprisingly, unfulfilling alone time, so many questions bounced around in my head like a pinball, which led me to search the scriptures for answers. 

Like so many other times, the words jumped out at me, making God’s voice loud and clear.

Although I can’t always identify my source of confusion or even the questions I have, the Bible miraculously provides clarity and the answers that I need.

The power of the scriptures should never be underestimated. This is why the Bible is always the first place I turn to when I’m not sure what to do. 

So many thoughts go through my mind on a daily basis. Life is not simple. I have many responsibilities and obligations. On top of that, I have my own hopes, dreams, desires. 

And I wonder, what am I supposed to be doing? What is my why? And how much does any of it actually matter? 

“God, I need you! I need to hear your voice, to see your footsteps on the path up ahead. I need you to show me signs on which way to go. Don’t just be with me, lead me.”

In my confusion to differentiate between my purpose and calling  from the roles I play, I cried out: “God, I need you! I need to hear your voice, to see your footsteps on the path up ahead. I need you to show me signs on which way to go. Don’t just be with me, lead me.”

While the Bible doesn’t specify my unique purpose in life, it does say that I am called to follow Jesus:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

1 Peter 2:21 esv

The answer to my plea for God to show me what steps I need to take is right there on the page in front of me.

The life I’m called to live is displayed in the way Jesus lived his life. Living out my purpose means to do my best to love and serve others like Jesus did, and let God’s light shine through me so that He may be glorified. 

God’s not so concerned with the roles I play, but that in those roles of mom, wife, coach, teacher, boss, employee, student, or friend, that I do them as if I am doing them for Him:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17 ESV

After studying the scripture, I came to this conclusion:

  • My identity is Child of God, Daughter of the King, Chosen One.
  • My purpose and calling is to trust and obey God no matter what.
  • My role is the current (and sometimes temporary) position in which God has placed me to fulfill my calling. 

Although my identity and calling are set for eternity, throughout the seasons of life, my roles may change. 

God has called me to love and serve others right where I am. This is my purpose. 

So when I find myself asking, “Is this all there is; is my purpose to just cook, clean, go to work, and do laundry for the rest of my life?”

No, the answer, I hear is, “No… not exactly… but maybe for right now, it is.”

I guess I just want to be called to do bigger things.

But Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16:10).

Although my purpose isn’t necessarily just to cook and clean, if I serve in that small capacity, giving all glory to Him, then I will be ready when something bigger comes along.

And for all I know, God is preparing me for that bigger thing while I’m obeying Him in the smaller things. 

I like to imagine that God will allow my books to be best-sellers, I will be invited to travel around to speak at mega-churches, and I will have a million followers on social media. That’s how I will know that I’m reaching others for Christ, right?

Maybe it’s even more simple than that.

Maybe it’s that when I obey God by serving my family, writing a blog post, or painting a wall at a community service event, then God’s love and light will impact one single person that needs to know they are loved by an everlasting, all-powerful, all-knowing God? 

After all, God isn’t calling me to chase after the big stuff. He just calls me to serve where I am, and when I do, I’ll be rewarded:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'”

Matthew 25:34-36 ESV

In God’s kingdom, it’s not about ratings. Nobody’s keeping score.

It’s definitely not about how many followers I have on Instagram. All that matters is if I took the gifts that God gave me and invested them back into his people. 

I’ve learned that I don’t actually like being alone as much as I thought, and the reason is because I was created to love and serve others.

My husband won’t let me live it down, and has lovingly threatened that if I ever say I like being alone, he’s going to remind me of how miserable I was during those few lonely days. 

At first, I was mad at myself for letting such rare moments of alone time go to waste, but now I’m thankful because they launched my search for a better understanding of who I am in Christ and how to fulfill my purpose.

When I serve, I find joy.

There is just something that feels good in the heart when I do something for others with zero expectation of anything in return.

I do it because of Jesus, the one who washed the disciples’ feet. I am supposed to imitate Christ. Therefore, I serve.

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my role vs my purpose

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