What is your why?
This simple question set off a mind grenade for me. It was full of radical implications; it was not a question to be answered flippantly and then walked away from. No, this question begged to be answered and it hung around my heart until I did so.
In my search for my personal Why I began to ask myself more questions: Why do I do what I do? Why do I watch what I do? Read what I do? Associate with whom I do? Say what I say? Go where I go?
I discovered that What is your why? can be applied to every area of our lives, because everything we do and say is motivated by something. For example, I wear what I wear because I am self-conscious about the extra kilos I carry and am therefore constantly trying to “hide” them. I would much rather wear different clothing styles, but I don’t for that reason. That’s part of my Why for what I wear.
I’m a Christian, so I want my life to increasingly reflect Jesus’ attitudes and priorities—I’ve decided that in everything I want my Why to be love. Even the Why behind my clothing choices can be love when I dress for God’s glory and in appreciation for the body He created. However, for love to be the Why behind all I do and say, I knew I needed to go back in order to go forward. My Why hasn’t always been what I wanted it to be, so I needed to examine the pattern of my life from way back when, so that I didn’t continue to operate from the same Why going forward.
Children can be pretty self-absorbed; I was no different. The world revolved around what I wanted, and my Why was all about me.
When I was in my preteen years, I was hooked on teen magazines; there were a plethora of them on the market. The problem was that I didn’t have much money and my parents had no intention of funding my obsession. So I stole—not the magazines from the store, but money from my little brother, so that I could “honestly” pay for them.
Looking back over my childhood years, I can now see that my Why had much to do with unfulfilled needs—I tried to provide for myself the care and nurturing I didn’t receive from my family.
Those teen years brought myriad growing pains and, along with them, no short supply of sarcasm and rebellion. Weekend alcohol binges became the norm.
So what was my Why in these years? Pain. At that point in my life, every emotional pain I’d collected over the years had joined together into one big ugly emotion. The things that I did and said arose from that place of pain. Pain was my Why. Because it hurt.
By the time I hit my twenties, I’d already been married to my childhood sweetheart for a couple of years. At first my Why for almost everything revolved around my relationship with my husband . . . but not always in a healthy way.
Even though we’d had premarital counselling, I still went into the marriage thinking we would love and serve each other selflessly and live happily ever after. Didn’t happen. It’s only by the grace of God that we’re still married 28 years later.
During this time my Why began to shift from me to God. Little by little I began to get reacquainted with my first love; Jesus took priority, and as my relationship with Him began to grow and change, so did my Why.
No longer did I want to listen to trashy music, watch R-rated movies or drink alcohol. I felt uncomfortable when people swore, used God’s name thoughtlessly or mocked Him. My Why began to look more like purity, holiness and the pursuit of God.
Most especially, when I hit my 30s, my Why changed from self to God. It was a time of great growth and healing of my past. That’s not to say that God was my Why every moment of the day; far from it, in fact. But I could see definite changes, and for that I was grateful.
At the time the What is your why? question was first presented to me, I was facing a bit of a mid-life crisis. I felt that I’d accomplished so little for God’s cause, and at age 46, I wanted my remaining years to matter for eternity.
It was at that moment that my personal search began. While I knew it was important to look back, I also knew I needed to look forward to the future. What do I ultimately want my why to be?
The answer came quick and hard: Love. I want my Why for everything to be love.
Why do I speak the words that I do? Love.
Why do I read, watch and listen to what I do? Love.
Why do I forgive when I’d rather take revenge? Love.
Why do I serve others when I have so many other things to do for myself? Love.
Why do I give money to a friend who’s having a hard time paying her bills when I’m struggling myself? Love.
Love is the most powerful and beautiful force in the universe. And because God is love, I want my Why to be love.
Knowing my Why brings clarity and purpose to my days. If I’m struggling to know what to do, I simply ask myself, What would love do? and then I do that.
My Why keeps me close to God, because apart from Him I can do nothing (see John 15:4, 5). It’s God’s love that enables me to love—“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
I’m forever grateful for the day the question What is your why? was presented to me. Since then my life has radically changed for the better. My circumstances no longer dictate the Why behind my words and actions. Instead, my Why trumps my circumstances.
Consider your own life: What is your Why? What do you want your Why to be?