Finding Your Purpose - In Manila Envelopes And Neon Lights
“I wish God would just give me a flashing neon light,”she said angrily. With tears streaming from both eyes she spewed out her frustrations and fears to me.
And I just wanted to hold her tight and let her know I understood.
Because I really did.
I don’t know how many times I’ve yelled at God in anger and fear. Or crawled to Him in my loneliness and sadness. Or stayed up late into the night wondering and worrying, “what do you want me to do?“
Not about anything specific of course. Just my life.
I wanted it spelled out in the sky. Or written on the wall. Or in flashing neon lights that I could not mistake, or ignore.
But it never happened like that. Or so I thought.
Instead, the words came from papers shoved in a manila envelope. Let me explain:
Years ago (while moving and purging I’m sure) my mother gave me a manila envelope. I remember glancing inside and seeing random papers, school pictures (that I wish she’d just burned) and every award, ribbon and medal I ever received in my early years. (Including all the honorable mentions, which, let’s be honest, there were more of those than anything else).
I tossed the envelope aside and forgot bout it. Years pass and it traveled with us from one home to another, along with all the other “stuff” your parents no longer want and give to you.
And then, about 3 weeks ago I was on a “new years purging” mission myself, when I found the envelope. My husband came home later that night and found me on our bedroom floor, in tears, surrounded by stacks of papers. It was like someone had switched on a giant neon light, because I was literally staring at words that suggested, pointed to and confirmed my natural strengths, passions and purpose.
These glimpses were hidden in the seemingly insignificant elementary report cards. Yes, you read it correctly. My mother had saved every report card, for every trimester, from kindergarten through eighth grade! (Call the hoarder police!)
And because I went to a very small Christian school as a child, the teachers were afforded the luxury of being much more candid in their observations. Here are a couple of examples:
“Malinda has a keen interest in reading and writing and shown much creativity”first grade teacher “Malinda has shown strong leadership skills”in second grade? “Malinda has been invaluable in influencing others toward an adventurous spirit… sparked in others the desire to go beyond the minimum and tackle challenges”my fifth grade teacher
Of course, I’m glossing over all the juicy comments about how I “mellowed” over the years from a spirit of perfectionism. And my favorite, “Malinda is beginning to compare herself with others, and is in danger of becoming proud of, instead of pleased with, her accomplishments.” Ouch! I agree, a bit harsh for a first grader!
As I sat, flipping through the pages, I saw the themes of my life pop off the pages: the things that I excelled at, the areas that I am naturally bent towards, the subjects that were easy, and the character traits that I, maybe still, consider a weakness.
And so, as I watched my friend crumble before me, I offered the only words I knew, “God has given you neon lights… You just haven’t seen them yet.” And I started to tell her of how my neon lights came on just recently.
If you’re wondering, she didn’t quite believe me. But hopefully she left our time together feeling less discouraged and lonely.
And maybe it’s hard for you to believe these words for yourself. Maybe you feel like you’re stumbling through life without clarity, vision or purpose. Chances are you’re reading this and screaming at the screen, “but Malinda, I don’t have a manila envelope!”
But here’s what I know: that if you look to God, you will find the answers you are searching for. God will show you what you’re missing. What you are on this earth to do. Your purpose.
Your answers may just come at a random moment. When you’re least expecting it. Because the neon lights can turn on in the most peculiar of ways.