The Path to Purpose

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BY ZACH ROUTH |

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.”1

Sixteen months ago, I boarded a plane to an unfamiliar place for a weekend of what I anticipated would be fun and fellowship with Moravian friends from across America. My destination was Wisconsin and the Board of World Mission’s 2016 FIT Event at Mt. Morris. In the weeks prior, I had just begun a new graduate program at NC State University pursuing a PhD in Sociology.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, with a full scholarship, an office, and the chance to do meaningful research at a great school. FIT² was only a blip on my radar. Little did I know, the weekend would provide a nudge that would eventually send my neatly-planned life into a whirlwind of chaos.

Image of 2016 FIT First attendees around a campfire

2016 FIT First attendees congregate around a campfire. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

It started with a conversation around a campfire. Some friends asked me about my plans and my goals. My answers were vague and brief. I was going to do research in education because that was a cause I believed in and where I could make a difference. Some asked if I was going to go into the ministry like my dad and I scoffed at those possibilities.

Conversations continued through the weekend. Presentations, focus groups, and fellowship distracted me from responsibilities back in North Carolina, and poked holes in what I thought I knew about myself.

Photo of FIT First event

Attendees participate in an activity led by Bishop Sam Gray at the 2016 FIT First event. | Photo by Mike Riess, IBOC

By Sunday afternoon, discomfort grew within my gut. As my peers made awesome plans to go out and serve the world, I wondered silently, “What in the world am I doing?” Up until this point my answer was easy: five or so years of graduate school and then I will go on to help others using my research. This answer was no longer sufficient.

“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace.”1

Before I came to college, I knew I wanted a career that would allow me to help others. I first considered being a history teacher, and eventually settled on sociology professor. My research looked into school segregation, spatial stratification, and teacher job satisfaction, among other topics. It was my way of bringing about peace and justice to the world.

As the semester progressed, my discomfort grew. The pressures of school and life as a young adult mounted into a hill of anxiety. The goals I had worked so hard to achieve now seemed like a pipe dream, not because I was struggling, but because my motivation was gone.

By Thanksgiving, I reached a wall. I talked with friends, reflected, and prayed. “What in the world am I doing?” turned into, “Who in the world am I serving?”

I had spent the entire semester learning about the joys and tribulations that define the lives of school teachers. One day it finally hit me. Everything I wanted to achieve could be done as a teacher. There, my work would not be stored in a library or buried in an academic journal. My work would be preparing youth for their future.

Before Christmas, I resigned from my position and transferred into the College of Education to become a high school social studies teacher. Gone was the scholarship, gone was the prestige, but gone was the aimlessness.

Image of man looking down road

Photo by Danka and Peter via Unsplash.com

“May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”1

“Why do you want to be a teacher?” is the new question I ask myself, and a question I am asked almost weekly. My short answer succinctly describes my belief in public education. The full answer is rooted in my faith as a Christian and a Moravian.

In 2018, I will enter the workforce not only as a teacher, but as a servant of God. My mission field is in the classroom where I hope to share the type of compassion and love that our Lord has shown to me.

Some are called to serve from the pulpit, or in foreign locations, but neither of those options are in my wheelhouse. I imagine I am not the only one who has this sentiment.

Our creator has equipped each of his children to serve one another. Discovering where these gifts are to be used can be a tedious process. It may take some nudging, and you will probably feel uncomfortable, but in the end, you will be led exactly where you need to be.

I am thankful for the discomfort I experienced a year ago. I look forward to living out my purpose for years to come. God has blessed me to be foolish enough to think that I can make a difference in the world, and I am grateful.


1A Franciscan Blessing
Claiborne, Shane, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Zondervan, 2012.

²Information about FIT 2015


Photo of Zach Routh

Photo courtesy of Zach Routh

Zach Routh is a member of Grace Moravian Church in Mt. Airy, North Carolina and also attends Raleigh Moravian Church. He is a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching: Secondary Social Studies. Zach will graduate in May of 2018 and plans to begin teaching in the fall.

Contact Zach at ZDRouth@NCSU.edu


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