This may sound like a simple question, but who—or what—leads your life?

In truth, this may be one of the most complex, confusing, and frustrating questions to answer. And one of the most important.

Another way to word this is, what drives you? What motivates your decisions and actions? Why do you do what you do, or not do?

For most of us, I imagine there is a hodgepodge of influences, which may include 5 “P” words: parents, programing, patterns, pain, passion, as well as beliefs, fear, mentors, schools, God, and countless others.

For myself, if I am honest, I have been led by pretty much all of the above, and many more. Pain and trauma have certainly been major influences in my life, I am sad to say. And still do! Included in pain and trauma is fear, need for approval, survival orientation, selfishness, misguided beliefs ….

I would like to think that all that pain influence is behind me, but if I am honest, it still affects much of my life’s decisions and actions. With the fear and angst of residual, unhealed past trauma, one’s decisions and actions and thoughts are usually not aligned with the highest calling and motivation.

When one is wounded and traumatized, he or she sees the world through that lens of need, lack, fear, anger, or whatever the residue.

But the pain, hopefully, is never the total motivator. Depending on the depth of the pain, hopefully something else comes through. Call it heart, or passion, or God. Something else is calling us to a higher or more righteous life.

In this fallen world, we may never fully heal. I know that sounds negative, and I hope it isn’t true. Some say our wounds propel us forward, to a place even higher than if we had never been wounded. I think there is some truth to this, wounds becoming wisdom.

For example, we may even get so excited with the newfound freedom of healing, that we dedicate our lives to helping others. This pretty much sums up my last 25 years. I went from falling apart to patching my life back together, and sometimes, more importantly, allowing God to do most of the work!

In truth, I shouldn’t say “allowed” God. God does what God does. But I am thankful that God and the Holy Spirit have for some mysterious reason chosen to lift my traumatized self up.

But my wounds definitely inspired me to help others, best I could. The thing is, while we can’t wait to be perfect to serve, we do need to be honest and keep facing the various layers of the inner onion. The ego wants to declare our self “done,” healed, ready to get on with life. And we should get on with life.

But always being honest. Always being humble. Always facing and feeling, seeking and requesting support.

My first spiritual teacher, when I was thinking of committing to her yearlong course, told me, “I’m not a cooked potato.” She wanted to clarify that she still has some wounds. For me, my pain and ego desperately wanted to see myself as “done.” It seems like every time I felt that way, Spirit would trip me up and bring me to my knees, which is not a bad place to be actually. (I’m visualizing a partially cooked potato on its knees 😊)

Rumi says, “If you ask for polishing, you will be tumbled.” It’s not easy facing and feeling pain. Who wants to do that? Only those who are courageous, those who are wise enough to know there is more to be liberated within you. The more we are purified, the more we have to offer.

Now, what about God? God wants us whole and healed, available, to be of service. Then, one might ask, why did He allow me to get beat down, hurt, pummeled, and abused?

This is hard to answer. In the bible, Job demonstrates this timeless question and quest: why does God allow us to suffer? Especially, apparently good people. But I believe this is a loving God, watching over a fallen world of free choice. He allows us our experiences, but always loving, caring, inviting us to heal and be whole.

As we face our pain and do our healing work, whether through therapy, yoga, prayer, exercise or whatever, God seems to offer ever more support. He could do it all for us of course, but like a good parent, He wants us to participate, to work it.

It’s a partnership. The more He touches us, the more we see what needs to happen next. Our path comes into focus. We take another step, and He offers another clue or gift or guide.

If you are like me, someone who had no real mentors or positive role models, someone who gave up on God, I did what seemed like the most logical or only choice: I tried to do it all by myself.

This is hell. Even when we are apparently “successful,” we deepen the ego identification. When we fail—which we will—we blame ourself (or God, even though we have been ignoring Him), and deepen our despair.

It’s a beautiful dance, when we start to surrender. It’s not about throwing out our personal will; will is very important. The enemy wants us to discard our healthy will. But we have to align that personal will with Thy Will, the Greater, God will.

Then life gets really cooking!

In short, or to sum up, this is the goal: to purify, get our heart right, pay attention, and make ourselves available. To be instruments of peace, aligning our personal will with Divine will.

How do we do that? Again, purifying ourselves, doing the inner work. Putting down our gadgets. Fasting, making space, putting aside unhealthy distractions.

Praying and holding intention for healing and humility and righteousness. Paying attention and practicing recognizing the voice of God over the cacophony of voices and false prophets.

Is there a better goal?

If there is a challenge or homework, I invite you to watch and witness what motivates you. Do as I mention in the last couple paragraphs. Do it playfully but with passion.