Consider the Clock

by Nan Corbitt Allen

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

We have a clock. Well, we used to have a clock in our bedroom. It was lovely and decorative, perfect for a blank space on our wall. However, for as long as I can remember, that clock could not keep good time. It seemed to always be 10 minutes fast. We tried fixing that by resetting it to the correct time, changing the battery, and then setting it ten minutes before the actual time to compensate—to no avail. It still displayed the wrong time. We don’t know if the clock was defective, or if we had not set it properly. Either way, to us, the clock was not living up to its original purpose—to show us the correct time.

I can relate to that. I sometimes feel like I don’t know my purpose, or that maybe I never even had one. I mean, at least a clock has a definite reason to exist. It says so right on its face. So, what about me?

According to the creation story in Genesis 1, Man was created to be fruitful and multiply, to take care of the rest of creation, to cultivate the ground (Gen. 2:5), and to name the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). Woman was created to rule alongside Adam in his dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28).

But we can’t leave the search for our purpose there in the book of Genesis, can we? Obviously, humankind is more than gardeners and procreators.

I think a lot of people believe that “purpose” is a career path—doctor, lawyer, pastor, teacher. Purpose might include jobs and relationships (marriage and children). But is that all it is?

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life is when you’re born and the day you find out why.” I think that is clever, but I also think it’s incomplete. I don’t believe that one day we wake up with an epiphany as to why we were created, and from that moment on our path is set.

I truly believe our purpose in life is not so much a destination but a journey. This is not an original thought; I think Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first. If this is true, then our purpose on earth is “a moveable feast” (thank you, Mr. Hemingway). And that makes it hard to nail down just one purpose. Unlike the clock, we are changing and growing and learning. Shouldn’t our purpose change, too?

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” is a book I’ve read before, but I went back to read it again. It both convicted me and convinced me that I have it all wrong. Warren bases the book around five purposes regarding God’s plan for each of us. Essentially these are: 1) to bring God pleasure; 2) to be a part of God’s family; 3) to become Christ-like; 4) to be shaped into God’s service; 5) to complete a unique mission given to each one of us. Using these as guides, it doesn’t matter what my vocation or hobby or daily pursuit is; my purpose can be lived out in whatever direction I go.

My direction may vary, but my purpose does not. Purpose is not what I do, but who I am. And who I am will determine what I do. If who I am is a clock, then I will keep correct time. But as a creation of the Almighty One, my life (according to Rick Warren again) is a test, a trust, and temporary—a dress rehearsal for eternity.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Ephesians 1:11 MSG

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Which of the purposes listed above is most important to you?

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