At 4 and 2 years old, our girls are just catching on to the idea that we have holidays to celebrate each other. So they were eager to help their mommy plan a special Father’s Day for me, filled with “my favorite things”.
First, we watched a selection of musical numbers from Annie on Youtube – followed by pancakes for breakfast, a tea party at lunch, a dance party in the afternoon, and ice cream after dinner, (with rainbow sprinkles, of course. “My” favorite.) Though Jen tried to steer them otherwise, the girls were very confident in their gift choices for me, and could not be persuaded. Jalen chose marshmallows and Emmery chose licorice. It cracked me up to open their packages, and hear them squeal, “It’s your favorite, Daddy! I got your favorite!”. I probably haven’t eaten marshmallows or licorice in their whole lives. But I gotta admit, I’m a bit fonder of both of them now.
Over the last several days, I’ve recounted my four-year journey being Jalen and Em’s Daddy. And I can’t help but think back to another me I used to be just seven years ago. I was single with no kids, and life was awesome! I saw all the new movies and every concert that came to town. I played music at all hours without interference from the volume police. I traveled. I slept in. I had plenty of time with my friends, and a little more “me” money in my pocket.
But something was missing. I couldn’t easily name it, but it felt like I was living beneath myself somehow… like I was missing a piece of me.
For years, I thought that missing piece was my family that would someday come. But if a spouse or a child could truly complete us, wouldn’t married people stay married? Wouldn’t parents be happy and fulfilled? Wouldn’t all the single or childless people in the world be living insignificant lives? That’s certainly not the case, so it must be something deeper.
I began to understand it in new ways the day our first daughter was born. She was a gift to me… a key that unlocked perspective and wisdom I desperately needed if I was ever to become who I was meant to be. In fact, I believe it was downloaded into me the instant she wrapped her little hand around my finger. Five little words words came to my mind that had never been truer, and would change my life forever.
I’m not here for myself.
Everything I’d previously hoped to do with my life suddenly seemed far less important. Until that moment, the bulk of my attention and hopes had been focused on me. But now, there was something outside of me to hope for – someone to dream harder for than I dreamed for myself. Had you asked me the day before, I would have been sure I understood what life was really about. But there was no way to truly understand until the moment my heart changed.
Standing there in the light of the truth she delivered, my former life seemed like a shadow of who I was meant to be. A piece of me fell away to become her teacher, her protector, her father and friend. Two years later, her sister arrived and together, they’re leading their mommy and me ever deeper into selflessness.
Do parents have a corner on this market? Do they get some greater opportunity at fulfillment than the rest of the world? Absolutely not! A kid is not required. But for some of us, parenthood will lead us to one of the most important lessons we’ll ever learn.
I’m not here to attain or accomplish.
I’m not here to build a name.
I’m not here to rise to the top of my field.
I’m not here for what I can earn or have.
I’m not here for myself.
Married, single, kids, childless, old or young – this is the lesson we’re all learning. We must lose ourselves to find ourselves. If you’re struggling to find your purpose, you’ll do yourself the hugest favor to quickly and truly embrace that your answer to “Why am I here?” will never begin with
“So I can be…”
“So I can have…”
“So I can do…”
It begins with “So I can give…”
We find our purpose by laying down our self-focused hearts, minds and ambitions to offer the world what we have to give. Hopefully, you and I will accomplish amazing things in our time. But in the end, most of it won’t hold the significance we think it might. We lose ourselves to find ourselves. Our purpose and fulfillment are directly tied to how we can serve those surrounding us – and by what we’ll leave for those who come behind us.