One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12:28-34
“Mine deep enough in every heart and you’ll find it: a longing for meaning, a quest for purpose. As surely as a child breathes, he will someday wonder, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’
“Some search for meaning in a career. ‘My purpose is to be a dentist.’ Fine vocation but hardly a justification for existence. They opt to be a human ‘doing’ rather than a human ‘being.’ Who they are is what they do; consequently they do a lot. They work many hours because if they don’t work, they don’t have an identity.
“For others, who they are is what they have. They find meaning in a new car or a new house or new clothes. These people are great for the economy and rough on the budget because they are always seeking meaning in something they own … Some try sports, entertainment, cults, sex, you name it.
“All mirages in the desert of purpose …
“Shouldn’t we face the truth? If we don’t acknowledge God, we are flotsam in the universe.”
- Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace
Most normal people would look at the Max Lucado quote and call this post “All Mirages in the Desert of Purpose,” but I have lived in SW Pennsylvania too long.
I think that I was in Thailand for about six weeks, on a visa extension, when my boss asked during a business conference call – my weekly project report – whether my house was flooded. When I said that I lived on a hill, he said that I should call home anyway. He said that no house was safe from the kind of flood that my town was facing. Since there was a tremendous difference in the time, I waited until I got back to the hotel to call my wife – my night to call anyway. She set her alarm to wake up for my every other day phone calls. She woke up early while I was just getting home from our evening dinner. She always asked for a project status update, hoping we would be ahead of schedule and coming home early, and since I had just come back from the evening meal, she needed a cuisine report.
When I asked about the flood, she said, “We are safe, but not the people a block or two below us on the hill.” I was thinking a flood similar to the Noah flood to have that much water, but then she added, “The ground beneath us shifted. An aquifer rushed water into an old coal mine. The coal mine was sealed, so the water found its way to the nearest ventilation shaft that wasn’t sealed. The ventilation shaft was just above the old school that was turned into a retirement home.” I thought, the second ventilation shaft, higher up the hill, was covered, but it was in our back yard. She continued, “The street you usually take going to work does not exist anymore. The street and the houses next to it weren’t flooded by rising water, but by water trying to find its way down the hillside.”
The retirement home rested about fifty or more feet above the street level in the valley and another twenty feet above the creek level. The street she was talking about was extremely steep. I asked, “Wait! I can understand water filling someone’s basement, but they just repaved that street. How could water remove the street, that high above the valley floor?”
“You’re the engineer! I’m not! I drove by and the three or floor layers of asphalt were washed away, and there is a pile of bricks at the bottom of the hill. I think they put the asphalt on top of cobblestones. And half the hill beneath where the street used to be is simply not there anymore. All that is there now is a fairly large waterfall draining into the volunteer fire department’s garage.” (Actually into the storm drains in front of the building)
A few months after I returned home, a couple of houses were condemned. They had moved earth back onto the hill. They repaved the street, without replacing the cobblestones. And in true Pennsylvania fashion, as soon as the paving was complete and the street nice and smooth, they dug one trench to replace the sewer pipes and another trench to replace the gas pipes and the street has never been smooth again in the past twenty years. At least it was smooth for about two weeks.
But that incident let us know that even we were not safe from the dangers of mines that were deep beneath us.
But what was Max Lucado mining for in his quote? He was mining for a sense of purpose, a purpose deep within us.
I agree that most men define themselves by what they do. That seems to be all that men talk about at social gatherings. When I was in Thailand at that time, I was developing technical training and writing the lessons to be used over the computer, so that future generations of steel workers in Thailand could learn how their steel mill worked. The Thai workers were also using the software to improve their English language skills, as my English lessons were being translated into the Thai language and the software allowed them to toggle between the two languages. I felt purpose in helping others, showing that love that Jesus talked about in the Scripture above.
But then, when I ‘retired’ I faced the rest of my life with a big question mark. What next?
That’s when God had a chance to give me a gentle nudge and let me know that I needed to grow from being a human doing to be a human being. (I removed the quotation marks from the Lucado quote.)
While finding meaning in what you do is important, it should never be what you are. It must always remain what you do.
In most of us, especially in men, we need to mine deeper, beyond the business persona to the essence of our existence. What is our reason for existing? I know. Others brought us into the world without asking our permission, but…
I caught up with one of my wife’s sisters’ husbands last summer. I had lost track of what he did for a living. I asked, and he said that he wrote a speech that I had heard two days before, about love and God. He refused to be defined by what he did. He figured it out earlier in life than I did.
God taught me that my purpose was to tell others about Jesus. He wants all His followers to do the same.
So, now the question is for each of you reading this. Are you a human doing or are you a human being?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.