Is your worth or sense of purpose based on something beyond your control?

That’s the question certified Christian life coach Vicki Corrington asked the forty or so women gathered in Waterville on Saturday for the 18th annual Maine Fellowship of Christian Writers Conference, “Writing on Purpose.”

Although I’ve been a Christian writer in Maine for the same number of years the conference has been held, it was my first time going. And I’m glad I did. What an encouragement to spend an afternoon among women writers of all ages and backgrounds exercising their God given gifts. Whether or not you write for a living (or hope to), the question Vicki posed is for everyone wanting to live life well. On what do you base your self-worth?

Your job? Children? Spouse? Home? Appearance? And what is really within your ability to control?

Closely linked to that was another question Vicki asked, “What is your purpose?”

How much easier to set goals if we knew why we were setting them. And how much easier to keep working toward them if we know who we were created to be.

One of the most difficult areas for me as a writer is overcoming discouragement.

“But what’s the point?” I often asked my husband, Dana, this summer after months of working on Ruth’s manuscript with no guaranteed success. “What if no one even reads it?”

The answer, as Vicki helped me discover, lies in who I am. I am not writing Ruth’s story simply because I hope to see it published or because I hope to use the proceeds to aid abandoned and disabled children in Uganda. I get up early and turn on my laptop each morning because my purpose is to share God’s presence in the darkest moments of life. Telling Ruth’s story is one way of doing that.

But my worth doesn’t depend on whether it gets published. That’s beyond my control.

What I can control is the button on my alarm clock, the lock on my writing shed, the words spun into sentences, and woven into chapters, and read to my family each night sitting around the living room as we share the laughter and heartbreak of Ruth’s life. And when it is as good as I–and two volunteer readers–can possibly make it, I will send it off.

But whatever happens next, I will avoid wrapping myself in rejection–or success–as I have in previous publishing efforts. That’s beyond my control. And as long as I continue to faithfully live my life on purpose, neither ought to change who I am.

So, there was Vicki, tall, elegant, with a smile that invited everyone to feel safe and valued, inviting us to think about who we were–at the core of our being–and to separate our identity from our goals.

“Who you are is one thing,” she said. “How you live it out, you get to choose.”

What a challenge! What freedom!

As the conference theme reminded me, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them,” Ephesians 2:10.

So, who are you? What are your goals?

It’s never too late to find out.