• Mark Whitten

Pages: Raw, Unedited, Freewriting (with an occasional picture) [Published Edition 02]

If you haven't read the intro to Pages 101921, please do so. These are completely unedited, first-write-through, editions of my daily writing practice. There will be spelling and grammar issues as well as shit writing. Enjoy!


Pages 110821 [Finding purpose by exploring your own personal shadowy Hell]


Does anyone else my age (44) still struggle with purpose?


Sometimes I think I’ve found it, then it flies away.


I forget so easily. Rereading my journals to unearth again, that illusive creature, where, as Buechner puts it, “where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”


Is it possible that purpose is future? For example, this collision of gladness and world need is going to have to come at a point when I am financially stable or free enough to devote time and energy to it in a way that does not detract from my current responsibilities as a husband and father.


Is my purpose in this stage more preparatory?


Can preparation for purpose be purpose?


Sometimes I wonder if purpose is something we post-moderns just made-up because we have more leisure time than our ancestors did. Survival is no longer the preeminent struggle. Thus, we dream up lives that go far beyond our limitations and somehow end up aimless, because really what we were meant for is the small. Another paver in the road, another brick in the building, another cog that keeps the machine churning and burning and progressing towards a better future for the collective.


Aside: That's awful communist of me.


Will purpose find us if we don’t look for it?


Is this a viable strategy? Will purpose find me if I don’t go hunting for it?


Is purpose more organic than we think it is, or must purpose be sought after with intention?


I read something extremely thought-provoking last night. Jordan Peterson writes in 12 Rules for Life: “You need to know where you are going, so that you can limit the extent of chaos in your life, restructure order, and bring the divine force of hope to bear on the world. You must determine where you are going…You have to articulate your own principles…You must discipline yourself carefully…You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself…Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction…Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being.”

And as Nietzsche said, “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.”


I agree.


But it doesn’t help me find that why. I struggle because my why and my vision seems bigger than I can even begin. And I’m getting older. And without some divine intervention, my vision is hard to see.


Peterson goes on to say, “You could help direct the world, on its careening trajectory, a bit more towards Heaven and a bit more away from Hell. Once having understood Hell, researched it, so to speak-particularly your own individual Hell-you could decide against going there or creating that. You could aim elsewhere. You could in fact, devote your life to this. That would give you Meaning, with a capital M. That would justify your miserable existence. That would atone for your sinful nature, and replace your shame and self-consciousness with the natural pride and forthright confidence of someone who has learned once again to walk with God in the garden.

Yes, I still wonder if purpose might organically stumble upon us, however, intention proves more often to be a stronger wind.


And I definitely agree with Peterson’s earlier statement, “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction.”


But what is the origin of vision? What is the birthplace of direction? Where must we go to find it? This is my question.


Should we make one up, if we find ourselves over half-way into our lives and still haven’t stumbled upon a good enough why?


I’m often haunted by the thought that I’ve somehow been passed over. By God. By destiny.


But then I’m reminded how much He has invested in me. The pain. The provision. The brokenness. The life experience. The little joys. The service extended towards others’ visions. The pruning. The patience. The dressing of another’s vineyard.


What is my personal Hell? And does it have any bearing on finding direction? Can pain point towards purpose? Can the darkness cause us to see?


We need to see in the shadows. We need to face those frontiers that trigger us. Perhaps there lies some treasure hidden in darkness.


Can you imagine that diamonds do not glitter there in the darkness until some light is shone upon them. And what is equally as impressive, is that diamonds don’t have a chance at sparkling unless someone goes into the darkness to get them.


So we must go into the underworld, to find the treasure of our lives.


We have to go down and dark in order to evaluate the suffering, apparently allowed by God.


Even in the underworld, is grace. For doesn't it say somewhere, "Even if I make my bed in Hell, there you are with me."?


We must be brave to ask ourselves: "What is my Hell?"


My hell is compromise. It’s laziness. It’s not reaching my full potential. It’s not being the King I know I am. It’s not being the priest I am. It’s not conquering the fear of man. It’s the drift, the unintentionality of life. It’s Fatalism. It’s not having margin. It’s not being able to provide for my family in the way I was provided for. It’s my children not seeing me as a hero, or rock, or gangster, or mysterious, or adventurous. It’s being shamed and abused by woman. It’s not being able to come through when and for those whom I love the most. It’s not being able to be the answer or at least have one. It’s not being able to be decisive because of financial restraints. It’s lack of faith. It’s fear of man. It’s being passed by. It’s not being unique or authentic. It’s the great fear of being common or average. Of not making a mark on the world. Of not denting the universe. It’s time running out. It’s not finishing well. It’s not finishing the things I start. It’s failing. Its dependence upon others. Dependence upon government. It’s being silenced. It’s injustice. It’s not having a platform to confront injustice. It’s not being gripped with a cause that keeps me up at night. It’s the death of passion. Its cynicism and skepticisms ruling the day. It’s the thought that I’m disqualified from “ministry” because of my failings in marriage.


So take all of that. Dissect it. Lay it out in strings. Uncoil the DNA of fear. And see what is common to man.


My personal hell is common (though with its idiosyncrasies) . It is not unique or specialized. Even my sufferings and fears bear the marks of a generalist.


That is who I am. I am a generalist, and thus a complete man. A whole man. One who is strong and vulnerable. Authentic and adaptable. Commonly prepared. To be used in uncommon ways.


(see there! I just did it. When we are brave to explore our dark frontiers, we find answers)


And so what is my answer?


It is to plow ahead as a generalist. Tackling that thing which is in front of me by day and by decade. To become, as Morgan Snyder says, “Good Soil”.


To cultivate strength through dependency. And wait on the Lord. Be faithful. Show up. Protect, provide, and preside. Trusting that I too was born for such a time as this.


Who knows what great saga we might be swept into during our few breaths.


Moments that turn teachers into generals, secretaries into CEO’s, shepherds into kings and orphans into queens.


Be faithful. Stay the course. Follow the lead. Trust and obey. Abide in the vine. Wash in the word. Pray unceasingly. And we shall not be passed by.


Rather we shall be ready.


We are tasked with waiting. Actively waiting. Preparing. Spinning and Toiling in the black, wet earth. Waiting for purpose to emerge from that underworld where kernel and seed must go to die.



But wait not by doing nothing. Defeat that which is in front of you and win each day. Until that moment, that split-second arrives that you were made for. That dark night that comes upon the world when unsuspecting men and women become burning and shining lamps, leading many to righteousness.