Saturday in the City: When The Purpose of Life is Where You Are


If I don’t mind wearing an abaya in the Middle East, why would I mind wearing a pencil skirt and blazer in the suburbs?

Sometimes not taking an opportunity is how you find the purpose of your life.

A few weeks ago the HR director of a company in the Arab world connected with me on LinkedIn. I found out they were having trouble filling 10 fabulous jobs that needed exactly my skills.

The jobs were truly amazing. They involved doing PR and mentoring younger PR staff at what would be a major new museum and cultural center. The job would be the opportunity of a lifetime — the kind of position not to miss. Could this be the purpose for this time in my life?

Here’s how I thought it through, and how passing up the opportunity created new purpose in my life:

1. We’d live in one of the company’s compounds for expats. Off-the-job, I’d be part of the same kind of multicultural community I do now. But in Saudi Arabia, women can’t have a driver’s license. I would be unable to leave the compound without my husband or on riding a company bus to work or in a group of women headed off shopping, perhaps to the women’s mall.

2. My parents are in their 80s and it can be difficult to gain approval for emergency trips out of Saudi Arabia. My husband’s disabled brother looks forward to our weekly visits, which would be interrupted. Those were of concern. It also bothered me that I would not be allowed to “import” my Bible.

3. Outside the compound I would wear an abaya, a long sleeved, floor length black dress with embroidered decoration. That just feels like “when in Rome …” No big deal to me.

4. The job really was a truly amazing opportunity. Except that on the job in Saudi Arabia, men and women have limited contact. I don’t understand how a public relations department can work that way. I’m not sure I wanted to test it out.

The end result is I’m not applying for the job in Saudi Arabia. But considering this amazing opportunity has helped me find new purpose where I am.

1. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff that was dragging me off God’s purpose for this time and place. My current slogan is, “Would I store this if I were moving to Saudi Arabia?” The pile keeps getting deeper. Watch for news of the “What if we were moving to Saudi Arabia?” sale!

2. I’m getting to know a lot of women who, it turns out, hold the key to God’s purpose in this time and place. I never thought about what life would be like if the only people I could spend time with were my husband and other women. Suddenly, it turns out that there are lots of amazing women around me: women who want to offer direct support or introduce me to other women or sell my services to other women.

3. I’m dressing for the purpose of life exactly where I am. If I was willing to wear an abaya, then I can wear a pencil skirt. The woman tailor around the corner cut off my skirts to the length that’s fashionable now.

Suddenly, my professional life is taking a turn for the better. My husband and I are meeting lots of new people among the “ex-pat” community here — people who are living without Bibles for the moment, but may get introductions to God through us.

We’re finding the purpose of life by ignoring an opportunity for change … and letting the consideration of that opportunity change us.

Have you ever found your purpose by staying put?


About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at, and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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One Response to Saturday in the City: When The Purpose of Life is Where You Are

  1. Cec Barker says:

    Wow, Carlene – you’ve done it again! Particularly your observation about the ex-pat community where you are now “living without Bibles for the moment”. . . followed by the unexpected twist. Thank you, my friend. Well done.

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