Bigger than the WHY Question

Defense attorney Robert McGlasson, left, talks with his client Brian Nichols during a pretrial hearing Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Atlanta. Nichols is accused of killing a judge, a deputy sheriff and two other after escaping from the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005.

In 2005, Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life made national headlines when a man named Brian Nichols escaped an Atlanta courthouse and, after murdering four people, including a judge, forced his way into single mother Ashley Smith’s home and held her hostage for seven hours.

Ashley asked Nichols if he wanted to her to read to him the book she was reading? That was Rick Warren’s book.

Years ago Rick Warren wrote the book “The Purpose Driven Life”. The question that he was asking was, “What on earth am I here for?”

Self-help books often suggest that you try to discover the meaning and purpose of your life by looking within yourself, but Rick Warren says that is the wrong place to start. You must begin with God, your Creator, and his reasons for creating you.

Journalists are trained to ask 5 w’s:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

These are questions whose answers are considered basic in information gathering or problem solving. These are the very tactical questions that really are great in guiding the journalist to uncover truth.

I have written many times here about how important the WHY is for giving direction.

While thinking about his idea of purpose I started to think of ways to explain this to the audience and you. One of the coolest apps on my phone is Waze. Waze is a GPS navigation software app owned by Google. It works on smartphones and tablet computers that have GPS support.

One of the coolest things about the Waze App is real time traffic and police reminders. You put in your destination and it gives you turn by turn directions and redirects you around accidents, construction and heavy traffic. I have discovered parts of Metro Atlanta I have never seen before and since using the app saved hours of my time.

Not only does it tell you turn by turn it tells you the approximate time you will arrive. How does it do it? Well as more and more people use it the app is able to gather all this information on driving patterns and calculate fastest routes.


Now in life there is not a Waze app for your life. You see the Waze app is based on roads that exist. In life you need more of a compass. Unlike the “Wizard of Oz” there is not yellow brick road.

You do need to ask where do you want to end up.

One of the best things about education is you get to learn from others. When we are young we learn to not do something usually from doing it and getting hurt. You only touch something hot on the stove once before you learn that lesson.

While in school you learn about those 5 w’s when you study communication. That was my master’s degree and so of course I learned about that method and many others. What was cool about where I got my degree was a seminary. I had to take three tracks which made my time twice as long as the average masters degree.

I had to take a theological track that helped a great deal with those big questions like Rick Warren ask in his book. By the way he went to the same seminary as I did and we had him speak to one of my communication classes. That was my main track–communications. This was in the school of education and that was the third track.

All three disciplines taught you that your best answers to everything are rooted in the best questions.

In education they teach you lesson planning. One of my professors changed how I saw almost everything when it came to not just teaching but communications as well. She taught me to start at the end of the lesson plan. What did you want your students to know at the end of the lesson?

Up until I had her as a teacher I had always worked on preparing my bullet list of point and being sure they were all covered. You know the teacher than plows through everything. She taught me that once you know where you are going and know the content well, then when a student asks a question or just contributes you know how to keep that interaction going which entail engages the entire class to ask more questions and get excited about learning.

Before I would want to cut off these comments that I thought were taking me down a rabbit hole. If you know where you are going you are like the Waze app and can redirect back to your purpose for the lesson.

Bigger than the “WHY?” is the question of “PURPOSE?”.

In theology I learned what is taught in Ephesians 2:10 that “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

In education I learned to ask yourself what is the take away for the lesson.

In communications I learned that you start with the audience and ask what are you trying to tell them and why should they care.

Be sure to ask yourself today, “What is my purpose?” Once you have that it your answers to the 5 w’s will be better and your “Why?” is much clearer.