What is the Meaning of Life?
Most people don't spend the day discussing this casually with friends over coffee; it's not exactly an off-handed mention tucked in between the weather and their weekend plans. At our school, our 12th grade Bible curriculum includes watching the Truth Project. This series is phenomenal. I've seen this 12-part series at least 8 times, and it never, never gets old. It is the best summation of a comprehensive Christian worldview that I've ever seen.
For a full week, we set up something of a 'retreat on campus' for the seniors. No uniforms, no classes, lunch and coffee provided. A time to treat them like the adults they are becoming as we go through the series with them.
Today, one of the topics was the meaning of life. Looking at history. Our lives. Our existence on planet Earth. What is the point of it all? Why are we here?
But isn't that really the question that most people would love the answer to but are too afraid to ask? Or are too afraid of the answer?
There are lots of explanations out there, depending on what you believe about a few key areas: the existence of God, whether we were created or evolved, the reality of overarching meta-narratives, the purpose of our existence - both as individuals and as the human race.
If a person really thinks about this long enough, it's enough to keep him awake at night.
For me, I believe God exists and that we are specially created by Him (not evolved). We aren't accidents of nature or the result of a random chance of events. Each of us was lovingly and carefully designed and planned by God.
I believe that history is really God's Story - and I don't meant that as just a cute cliche. I believe history has a beginning and yes, an end, too - pre-ordained by God. History is not just reactionary nor is it randomly spiraling through time until we blow ourselves up. God will bring all human history to a conclusion someday, culminating with each of us in our eternal destinies. I 100% believe this.
And in this Story during our time on earth, I believe that we have a part to play. That's why we are here. That's the meaning of our lives: God has actually scripted us in to have a significant role in history, in His eternal, cosmic purposes.
Yes, little old us.
We actually get to choose if we will play our part. Or, we can choose to write our own stories. Yes, we have that choice.
So, what does this mean?
As a society, we love the freedom and relish of writing our own stories. We love being masters of our own destinies, creating our own mini-sagas that have ourselves as the lead actors and actresses. I admit, there is something alluring to that - that our destinies are in our own hands.
But is that really reality? Do we really have as much control over the details of our lives as we think we do? Sure, hard work can get you a lot, but there are certain things we cannot force to happen, no matter how hard we try. What about the things we have no control over? What about death and tragedy and fatal diseases? Failed dreams? Unmet expectations? Betrayal and injustice? I'll speak personally - what about infertility? What about when our plans go south? Do we really have that much control of our own stories?
The idea of writing our own stories sounds glamorous, but it's a little precarious, if you ask me.
However, there is another option: we can choose to let go of the pen and let Him write our story into His Story.
So, what does THAT mean?
It means we give up our rights to write own story. It means we let Him determine what our roles will be. We become willing to play the part He wants us to play, whether it's the best supporting actress or the guy who sweep the theatre when the show is done (We are never the Star, by the way. There's only One of those).
We trust the role He gives us because we are confident in His goodness. Because we know there is something bigger and grander going on than just our own small story. And we are willing to give up our small story to have a part in The Big One.
This can be scary; it's unknown; it's unpredictable. It may not be what we would have dreamed of as a kid. It's downright unnerving, this not being in control (even if it is only an illusion).
So, why in the world would someone choose to let go of his own story and choose God's?
Well, I can only speak for myself. The bottom line is this: my story is not big enough to live for. Not significant enough. Is it worth spending my whole life building this existence for myself, that is only about me? That only reaches as far as I myself am able to extend it? That ends when I die? Ironically, I am the limiting factor, the weak link, in my own story.
If I live for me, what I do dies with me. Maybe I did some good in the world - went on a few missions trips, helped some kids graduate high school, volunteered at soup kitchens. Those things are wonderful and admirable, but eventually, even those people will die. What I've done still lives and then dies with me.
Being a part of God's story means that what I do matters for eternity. Forever. It outlives me. Every action performed playing my role in His Story has ripple effects in eternity. And He has thought me significant enough to assign me a part in this magnificent narrative; I actually get to play a part in a story that actually means something - not just here and now, but forever.
I won't lie; this has serious implications, this cashing it all in to be a part of His story. It means we stop insisting on our own way. We stop trying to manipulate and strive and strategize to get life to work out exactly how we want it to. We really do hand over all of our desires and wishes and dreams and let Him determine which ones He wants to become realities in our lives. I get it - this is scary and unknown and unpredictable.
But in all honesty, isn't life scary and unknown and unpredictable anyway? Isn't it better to know that a powerful, sovereign, benevolent, loving-to-the-moon-and-back God has the pen rather than chance or even our own, limited selves? A God so loving that He actually sent His Son to be a part of our messy story? And that He actually promises us that He makes all the details of our lives come together for our good? Where else are you going to get a guarantee like that?
Being a part of His Story - this is really the meaning of life. This is really what it means to follow God. Our society can't really understand this kind of abandonment and relinquishment of ourselves. It sounds self-deprecating, unhealthy, and by God, unAmerican. Why in the world would we do this?
Because He can be trusted.
Because He is good.
Because He's already proven His commitment to us.
Because He really, really is worth it.
[Photo credit: Anthony Litterio via Wikimedia]