Purpose Driven Life
April 2, 2013
We nearly ran out of gas as we drove down the highway. It was the half-way point of my year-long sabbatical from politics, and my husband and I were passionately discussing my purpose and my future. It was our first big first road trip together. A bonding experience.
I had re-read Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, during an emotionally tumultuous period of my life a handful of years before. My first husband had left me just as I was taking on the challenging task of turning around a small, struggling non-profit organization. As I tried to figure out a fragile life that had been turned upside down, I was reminded of a concept I was already quite committed to: Warren’s book argues that we can only find fulfillment and meaning when we understand and implement whatever God put us on earth to do.
A few years later, having left my non-profit job for a graduate school stint at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where I would prepare myself to run for political office, I thought I knew what my purpose was. But then, the summer after graduation, I met the man who would be my second husband.
He had known what he was getting into when he married me. But now he would prefer that I not run for office. At least not any time soon. Why had God brought him into my life if he wasn’t going to support my dream of running for office?
Maybe God knew that I needed someone to help me have more balance. To remind me that there is more to life. To give me a different focus. Even though my husband and I are not on the same spiritual path right now, he can still serve God’s purpose in helping me to be on the right personal and professional paths.
Despite our different perspectives—or maybe partly because of them—my husband and I agree that I have a bit of a unique voice that could be used to speak into both secular and religious realms around issues of politics and popular culture. I have bases among both liberal, grass-roots, community organizing types and the conservative evangelical community I grew up in. I have a relatively small number of friends and colleagues who cross both those spaces as I do, but most of those people keep at least some of their opinions muted for fear of alienating one side or the other. I’ve long been torn as to which of those worlds I’m supposed to be spending more of my time in as I try to live out a faithful Christian witness. Maybe it’s time I take the risk of walking boldly in both.
Establishing a firm foundation and a safe space to ground and hold me is vitally important if I’m going to take such a risk. That requires an adequate investment in my marriage that might not have happened had I jumped into tempting political opportunities that have come my way during the early years of my new marriage. For both pragmatic and philosophical reasons, my household needs to be my first ministry.
I always said that I would never become a work-a-holic (or service-a-holic) such that I neglected my family. Growing up in a tough neighborhood with friends raised in tough circumstances, I didn’t want my future kids to be part of the problem as I was working to craft solutions. As I envisioned from an early age a career in politics, I always said that I would not be one of those politicians whose children resented them because they were never around. And I always believed that, after God, I would put my husband at the top of my priority list.
So, it was during the road trip that my husband and I agreed that my main politics-related focus for a while would be this blog. I would use it to say some things that might actually threaten my future viability as a politician. Meanwhile, I would invest in self-care, in my marriage, and other important relationships. It took me six months longer than planned to launch the blog while I’ve focused on some of the other items on the list. But I’m finally poised to speak into issues I’m theoretically supposed to avoid.
As we celebrate our April Fools Day anniversary (that’s another fun story), we’ve just come back from enjoying some more bonding time together on the road. We are reflecting on our five years together as husband and wife. We are celebrating that I’m finally resting in my calling. And living into my purpose.
Am I taking a detour? Even as I declare that I’m not, I still wrestle with myself and with God. But I’m comforted by the words of one of my wealthy political donor friends with whom I check in once in a while. He doesn’t share my faith or my political philosophy. But he believes in me. And though he has already written a check to help me get my political career off the ground, he told me from the beginning that I should be true to myself. And that if I have a second chance at love, I should take it, even if that slows or changes my anticipated political course.
Politics will always be there. Or not.
Regardless, I’m trying to let God drive my purpose.