A “Dear James” letter

I was born on the last day of the year.  So the annual transition of “out with the old and in with the new” feels especially pivotal to me as I reflect with gratitude upon what once was, I look forward with hope and anticipation for what is yet to come, and I explore more deeply the larger reason for my birth.  And, yes, I do make some “New Year’s Resolutions”; however, they have nothing to do with resolving to fit into last year’s pair of blue jeans.  And while more money flowing into my bank account rather than out of it would bring some much-needed financial relief, I will not be making that my top priority either.  Nor will I be committing to get a better job or setting my sights on traveling around the world sampling exotic foods.

Part of the reason why I believe New Year’s Resolutions “fail” is because the purpose for which we enter into such agreements with ourselves has very little to do with the purpose of our lives.  I am sharing a letter I wrote to my 18-year-old son, as it captures the essence of how I feel about the arrival of a new year.  The gifts I have been given the opportunity to receive and give within the context of my relationship with my son have been some of the most profound and life-changing.  And I believe deeply that by allowing the gifts to flow through me to you, they become a gift to us all.

“Dear James,

As night gently falls on 2012 and the promise of a new dawn in 2013 hangs in the air, billions of people around the world will be resolving and committing to make changes in their life, hoping to stick to long-lasting resolutions that will finally deliver to them the things in life we all desire most — abundance, prosperity, better health, joy, security, happiness, and love — believing that this time, this year, their well-intentioned efforts will resemble more than simply a “to do” list for the first week of January.

I wonder if you, too, feel that yearning, if you hear a beckoning to a higher calling, if you desire to make new choices with an eye on shaping and defining not just your experience for a particular year, but with an eye on shaping and defining the entire purpose of your life.  Ah, the purpose of life — the question that has perplexed scholars and religious teachers around the world, the question which has led countries into war and tested and stretched the fabric of every relationship we enter into, the question that is most looked at in the final moments of our physical being here on earth:

What is the purpose of my life?

My Beloved Son, I am here to share with you the answer.

I will begin by sharing with you what the purpose of your life is not.  As my good friend, Neale, has shared many, many times, the purpose of life has very little to do, if anything, with “getting the girl, getting the car, getting the job, getting the house, getting the spouse, getting the kids, getting the better job, getting the better house, getting the promotion, getting the grandkids, getting the gray hair, getting the office in the corner, getting the retirement watch, getting the illness, getting the burial plot, and getting the hell out.”

And so far, in the 46 years that I have been blessed to have on this earth, this has demonstrated itself to be true – life is not about any of those things.  I’ve had most of the things on that list, and some of them more than once.  And I am here to tell you that the purpose for my life was not realized or remembered by “getting” or “having” any one of them.

So if life really isn’t about any of those things, then what is it about?

This is what I know to be true:

The purpose of your life is to create the purpose of your life.

When you were a very young child, it mattered not to me whether you played baseball or joined Cub Scouts, whether you went swimming or read a book, or whether you ate pizza or spaghetti.  And now, as a young man who is living on his own, it matters not to me which career you choose or what area of the world you reside in, what you have for dinner, how you enjoy your spare time, or what kind of clothes you wear.

Do not confuse “not mattering” with “not loving.”  My love for you is without conditions.  These choices would only matter to me if somehow the level of my love for you was attached to a particular outcome designed by me or hinged to a misguided idea that somehow you could fail in this Life game.

I want for you what you want for you.

And here is where it gets even better, James:

God wants for us what we want for us.

Society will tell you that in order to “earn” God’s love, you must be a certain way and do certain things.  Have you questioned this for yourself?  Have you wondered why a God who is “unconditionally loving” would place such conditions upon his love?  Have you dared to imagine a different kind of God?

And if God wants for us what we want for us, and the purpose of our lives have nothing to do with what we have or what we get, what will the arrival of a new year mean to you?   What will you strive for?  What will you draw upon to ascribe meaning to the experiences in your life?

Your life is an opportunity.  Within every occurrence, there is an opportunity for you.  And within every relationship, you are an opportunity for someone else.  Will you see those moments and embrace those gifts, both those that are being given to you and those you have to give?  As the world collectively and consciously welcomes the New Year, perhaps the largest number of people purposefully and simultaneously placing positive energy and intention into the world, how could our world not become a better place?  Where will you be in that process?  And WHO will you be in that process?

What will you decide and what will you declare the purpose of your life to be, my beloved son?”

What will the arrival of a New Year mean to you, my friends?  A new car?  More money?  Fitting in last year’s blue jeans?  Or perhaps at last the answer to one of life’s biggest questions:  What is the purpose of my life?

 (Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team atwww.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • Laura Pringle

    Thanks so much for sharing such a touching and personal piece of your story! 🙂
    It’s helpful and interesting to see how you, someone who’s presumably followed Neale’s books for years, discusses spirituality with your teen. As a mother of teens myself, I have been wary of pressing my spiritual beliefs onto them, but I have to say, I’ve sometimes portrayed organized religion in a derogatory way and painted Neale and my ideas on God much more enticingly…! 😉 (oopsies)

    However, I do encourage them to learn as much as they can and make their decisions based on knowledge and understanding and not just arbitrarily…

    My mother had a few negative experiences with the family church and pastor, and had shunned religion when I was forming my ideas about God. I spent a lot of time imagining how God really was, and praying to the God of my imagination, who was a lot more accepting and understanding than religion’s Gods.

    Being raised with no religious pressure has been an absolute blessing, and I am eternally grateful to have had this experience! Thanks to my mom, who lovingly allowed me to come to my own conclusions while gently nudging me into a better direction:)

    And, thanks so much to your team, who offers insights and encourages outside input to collaboratively define the God of our most sublime understanding. (((hugs))) And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  • Nova

    Ahhhhhhhhh, Lisa!!! I love you so much I could burst! So. Beautifully. Put. James is so, so lucky to have you, and so is the rest of this world. THANK YOU!

  • SL

    Thank you Lisa for sharing this beautiful, inspiring letter. As a mother it helps me greatly too, as a human being it moves me deeply 🙂
    You are such an angel!