The P-Word

"The purpose of this symbol needs no explanation," he exclaimed.

“The function of this punctuation mark needs no explanation!” he exclaimed.

My Grade 6 Language Arts teacher thought this doohickey – ! – was called an explanation mark, until a certain chubby know-it-all 11-year-old set him straight.

Old habits start early, it seems.

A certain chubby know-it-all in Grade 6

A certain chubby know-it-all: age 11.

In the same classroom, I delighted in pointing out that one of my classmates inexplicably described a rainbow as ‘cothourful’, and in junior high, I seriously considered entering a ‘Friends Off!’ state with a close chum, solely because he pronounced the number that comes before 10 as ‘ning’ (with a long-I sound). He said ‘fine’ and ‘dine’ and ‘wine’ and ‘mine’ properly, but refused to align with the rest of Anglophonia on the pronunciation of ‘nine’. (Still burns my potatoes a bit, frankly.)

And the many reporters and editors who’ve worked with and for me over the years could probably swap stories about the bald-headed, self-appointed, party-pooping grammar guru who cast a shadow over their world, in years and decades past (and present).

But I should acknowledge that I am not without sin in this area.

It hasnt come to this just yet.

It hasn’t come to this just yet.

For instance, I subconsciously refuse to accept the reality that ‘undoubtably’ is not a word. (It really should be, but the Oxford and Webster people have stopped taking my calls. Wanna sign my petition?)

For now, at least, the word is ‘undoubtedly’, which is a passable substitute, I suppose.

But being a know-it-all has its down sides, let me tell you – aside from the inherent lack of popularity. I have a reputation to maintain (at least in my own mind), and I can’t afford to slip up (although I’m sure I often do). So I find myself second-guessing myself a lot, and looking things up on Google, Wiktionary and QuickAndDirtyTips.com.

For instance, the other day I wanted to use an adverb to convey the meaning ‘on purpose’, and was torn between ‘purposely’ and ‘purposefully’. And while visiting the QuickAndDirtyTips page created to address this question, I found a little slice of epiphany, without even knowing I was looking for it.

“Purposely” is the word you want when describing something done deliberately—done on purpose. If you know your sister is always late, you may purposely tell her the party starts 30 minutes earlier than it really does.

“Purposefully” describes the action or demeanor of a person who is determined or resolute. If you want to convey a message to your brother without speaking, you may purposefully raise your eyebrows.

Quick and Dirty Tip: Think of “purposefully” (purpose-full-y) as meaning “full of purpose.”

Full of purpose.

For my shekels, there’s a lot of wisdom packed in those three words.

You see, I’m completely onboard with the theory that says we’re not supposed to be passive about our faith. Jesus wants us to follow Him and strive to be like Him, and if there’s one adjective that’s incompatible with Jesus, it’s passive.

And when I think of being an active Christian, I translate that to being a Christian on purpose. And unfortunately, that often looks a little too much like Homer Simpson’s version of wanting to appear to be a vigilant and proactive safety inspector.

Homer Simpson puts his mind to something important.

Homer Simpson puts his mind to something important.

‘[ Gasps ] Hey, you! Stop being so unsafe! Smitty, safen up!’ – from Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk (Season 3, Episode 9)

And in my case, since I don’t want to be one of those irritating, in-your-face Ned Flanders Christians, I try to be subtle and I think I end up coming off like a passive-aggressive Christian. And definitely not doing Jesus any favors in the process.

The notion of ‘on purpose’ is tough. To me, it demands a level of commitment, engagement and activity that I find difficult to completely understand, let alone achieve or sustain.

Fortunate Son first appeared on the 1969 CCR album Willy and the Poor Boys.

Fortunate Son first appeared on the 1969 CCR album Willy and the Poor Boys.

Sort of like Creedence Clearwater Revival says in the classic 1969 song Fortunate Son: ‘And when you ask them, “How much should we give?” Oh, they only answer, “More, more, more!”

So my efforts to serve Christ intentionally by being a Christian on purpose are often frustrating and ineffective and disappointing.

However, I think being a Christian with purpose could be an entirely different story.

When I try to be a Christian on purpose, I tend to act like I think it’s my job to do the heavy lifting, to make my own opportunities to serve God. But a Christian with purpose, I think, is more able to let go and let God lead the way. A Christian with purpose has his ears on to what God has in mind for him, and is poised to take action as he feels prompted.

Candyland: perhaps the most painful game (for adults) ever invented.

Candy Land: perhaps the most painful game (for adults) ever invented. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t choose to find a photo to illustrate the poop-scooping chore?)

And he knows that this action could consist of anything from spontaneously forking over the cash in his pocket to someone in need, to overtly sharing the Gospel at the drop of a hat with a complete stranger, to picking up the dog poop in the backyard when it’s someone else’s turn but they’re busy or tired.

Or maybe it’s just playing yet another excruciating game of Candy Land with a toddler when you’d really rather they take a nap – so you could do the same.

I think this message is in your inbox right now.

I think this message is in your inbox right now.

And sometimes, I think the ‘duty’ of a Christian with purpose is simply to receive. To let someone else do something nice for you.

To be still and know that God is God, to rejoice and be glad in the day He has made and to take comfort in the reality that whatever is on your heart, your mind or your to-do list, He’s got it under control.

As I write all that, it sounds a little too easy to be true. For instance, how do I know that I’ve got my ears on? How do I know what action I’m being prompted to take? Is it possible that I could mistake ‘not feeling like it’ for ‘not feeling called to it’?

Undoubtably. 😉

But I think these types of questions are an essential component of faith with purpose – at least for me. When I stop examining my circumstances and inclinations through this lens, I’ve probably slipped into clumsy on-purpose faith or useless passive faith.

As is often the case when it comes to disciplehood, tension is good.

Peace be with you.

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About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Christian Walk, Community, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Holiness, Kindness, Love, Relationship, Words, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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