The following is a report on the practical applications of Marcus Ryan's new book, Restless Journey: Every Man’s Struggle for Significance, (Harvest House, 2006).
Picture yourself lying inside a casket at your funeral. Will the mourners there be able to eulogize you accurately? Will there be enough people who truly knew you well to carry your casket? Will the story of your life live on in people’s memories and inspire them to influence the future?
Make sure you truly live before you die. Accept the quest God has made you for – to discover who you are, and let other people know that person.
Here’s how you can come to know your true self and be known by others:
* Understand significance. Recognize what’s most important in life (knowing and being known) and what pales in comparison (such as earning money, power, or degrees). Know that what matters most isn’t what you achieve, but who you become as a person. Ask God to help you focus on what’s significant in life and avoid distractions.
* Take off the masks. Realize that refusing to look at who you really are and letting others see that person leads to feelings like restlessness, uneasiness, inadequacy, futility, and despair. Stop wearing masks of your own making or that others have placed on you. Don’t worry about trying to project a certain image; decide to value the real you and share that with others. Know that once you discover yourself and help others perceive you for who you are, your relationships will be richer, your goals will come into focus, and your personal level of satisfaction will rise. So put aside the roles you’ve been playing, and start to become the person you were born to be.
* Know what it means to be known. Understand that being known doesn’t mean being a celebrity or the life of a party. It doesn’t require you to make yourself vulnerable to strangers or act in any ways that aren’t natural to you. Instead, being known simply means that you discover yourself through interacting with others, and that they witnesses your life and become keepers of your story.
* Find your path. Acknowledge that God was intentional when He made you, and that He has a purpose for your life. Make it a high priority to discover and fulfill that purpose. Reflect on your life to see if you see a pattern emerge from your memories of relationships, activities, successes and failures. Ask God to reveal your path clearly to you.
* Beware of detours. Understand that you will face dangerous detours off God’s path for you in the form of temptations you’ll need to resist. Be especially careful about appetites – for greed, power, lust, or something else – that go out of control. Refuse to feed unhealthy appetites, such as by installing Internet blocking software and having your spouse monitor your computer use if you struggle with pornography. Whatever appetites are threatening your spiritual growth, cut them off before they destroy you. Then pursue healing. Take some time to reflect on past experiences that may have triggered certain appetites to spiral out of control. Pray about your thoughts and feelings, and ask God’s forgiveness for your mistakes. Then invite God to renew your mind through the power of the Holy Spirit, and protect you from evil that seeks to prevent you from becoming the person you were intended to become.
* Consider who you are right now. Take an inventory of your life right now and seriously consider who you currently are as a person. Ask yourself honestly whether or not you’re pleased with yourself. Don’t feel ashamed if the answer is “no,” because there’s hope for you to grow and mature.
* Think about people who have shaped your identity. Know that many people throughout your life – such as parents, siblings, friends, and teachers – have helped shape your self-image. Understand that the opinion you have of yourself is often powerfully influenced by the opinion other people have of you. But realize that your identity is based on who you are in Christ – God’s beloved child. Embrace and guard your true identity, recognizing that it is a treasure.
* Find people who will mirror your true self back to you. Don’t hide from people who can support you in your quest. Seek out a handful of people you can trust (such as your spouse or other family members and close friends) to get to know you for who you really are, reveal that person to you, and to challenge you to become more and more true to that person. Consider entering into a mentoring relationship to learn valuable life skills that you can later impart to someone else you care about.
* Find your vocation. Understand that no matter what type of work you do to earn an income, you have a calling to a specific type of life’s work – your vocation. Consider your interests and talents for clues as to what it is. Ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do?”, “What do I continue to return to regardless of disappointments and setbacks?” and “When or where do I feel God’s pleasure?”. Know that your vocation will always involve service to others, because it represents the type of contributions God wants you to make to the world. Once you identify your vocation, refuse to waste your time and energy on unrelated tasks that do nothing more than keep you busy. Do all you can to tie your vocation in with your paid work, as well, so you can spend the most time possible pursuing your vocation. Remember that pursuing your vocation is vital not just to your own life, but to others’ lives as well, because people around you can’t become all they are supposed to be unless you become all you’re supposed to be and contribute to their lives as God has planned. Affirm that what’s truly worth working for isn’t just money, power, or prestige – it’s to make the contributions you’re supposed to make during your lifetime.
* Let your life tell a story of faith. If you haven’t already, begin an eternal relationship with Christ. Ask God to help you act on your faith so that every aspect of your life reflects God at work in you. Strive to make every decision an act of worship, and to live with integrity in all you do. Share stories of how God has – and is – operating in your life when you talk with people who are close to you. Remember that God will use even the worst experiences to bring about good purposes if you invite Him to do so. Show and tell others how your successes, failures, joys and sorrows alike have drawn you closer to God through Christ. Know that, after you die, these people will help you story live beyond you.
* Live with passion. Don’t settle for just getting by as best you can. Reject the pull of ritual, boredom, fear, or ignorance that causes you to feel apathetic about life. Decide, every day, to learn more about yourself and help others know themselves so you all can live with passion. Expect the path to lead closer and closer to God. Seek to get to the point where Christ living in you is greater than the man you were before, and His light reveals the person you were designed to be.
Adapted from Restless Journey: Every Man’s Struggle for Significance, copyright 2006 by Marcus Ryan. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Marcus Ryan holds a Ph.D. in communication and is Director of Online Programming for InTouch Ministries. He has spent more than 30 years in media, ministry, and business and was the executive editor for Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox content at Christianity.com. He lives in