Purpose-Driven Nothing

11 11 2009

motherAh, mother…she worked so hard to keep the house straight, to take care of her children, to take care of the children at church, to take care of the homeless, to take care of foster children, to take care of abandoned animals….  Everything she did has been evidence of a driven life.  Much as I appreciated the clean house and the food on the table, I found myself wondering what it was all for, when at the end of the day she dozed off on a recliner, “playing a board game” with me, where I was expected to play the game for the both of us.  Once a week, or so, she took it upon herself to spend time with me.  There wasn’t much she enjoyed, beyond bored board games, so I learned to decline.  “What do you do for fun?” I asked her one day.

“Work is my fun,” she replied with dignity.

I can appreciate someone who enjoys her work, but there’s a difference between work and play.  Work is not something that you’re supposed to do on the Sabbath.  All my parents ever did on Sunday was lie around the house.  They had no means of frivolous entertainment.  I asked my mom, persistently, what she did that was not work, something done for no other reason than because it was fun to do.  She replied that she was proud of the fact that she did not waste her time on useless things.  Consequently, she did not have much time for me.  This is not to say that she didn’t love me.  It’s just that she wanted to stand before God on the last day and hold her head high, knowing that she had made good use of her time here on Earth.

My father was a hard worker, too.  At the end of his day job, he had dinner and left for his side jobs.  Sometimes he brought me along to sit around and fidget with screwdrivers and wires and stuff.  Sometimes he found things for me to do.  Most of the time, though, I just didn’t see much of him.  I thought he was hard pressed for cash, but he kept us supplied in electronic entertainment and piles of toys at Christmas.  I later asked him why he worked so much, and he replied, essentially, by saying that he was driven.

They were ambitious people, and they took great care of me.  Now, at the end of their lives, they look back on it and worry that they didn’t accomplish enough.  I worry that they accomplished too much.

I have known scores of Christians who strive to please God with their lives.  They struggle to work witnessing into every conversation.  They always keep an eye open for ways to help the needy.  They pray and read their Bibles daily.  I can hardly criticize them, especially in light of those who do no such thing.  Yet, I cannot help but wonder if all of this effort misses the point, not only of faith, but of life, in general.  If I ask them what their purpose in life is, they confidently tell me that they were put on this terrestrial globe to serve God and humanity.  A hammer was made to pound nails, and a Christian was made to feed the hungry.

Adam and Eve must have been the most depressed people in all of history.  In all of creation, nothing was wrong, and there was no one to serve.  Heaven must be the most listless place, with nothing wrong and nothing to fix.

Aye, they are the Marthas of the world, running to and fro, preparing a meal for their unexpected guests, Jesus and company.  They live to serve.  They are efficient, driven people, for whom no such thing as a game or hobby exists.  But we do not have children to be our tireless servants, and we are the children of God, no less.  He did not make us for the work that we do.  Sure, all of these things are well and good, but no good deed constitutes life’s purpose, not a single one.  Continue to care for your brother, but keep your priorities straight.

Your highest priority is communion with your maker.  The greatest commandment is to love the lord your God with everything you’ve got.  The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.  While service can be an act of love, no service is a substitute for love.

Get out.  Enjoy the birds and the trees.  God made them, and they’re yours to enjoy.  Love the creation and the mind that created it.  Let God be your friend, rather than a demanding task master.  Don’t live to serve.  Live to love.  Many people miss the opportunity to get in touch with God, being too busy with doing good things.  Love the homeless first; help them if necessary.

We’re not earning points, here.  This is not our purgatory.  We could do a great many things, but if we miss the point of it all, if we forget to take the time to love God and our fellow people, then we accomplish nothing.

Frivolous things have their purpose, too.  They give us a chance to relax, play and enjoy each other’s company.  Sometimes it’s nice just to be silly.





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