Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 - A Year of Living Differently

"I gave her a million dollars in the divorce settlement," the CEO with the incision in his chest told me. He added, "I miss my children."

Linda and I were at a hotel with our boys. I was sitting in the sauna when this man began sharing with me.

"I had hoped that, when I finally retired, she and I would do it together."

I just listened. I was thinking that before me sat a man who was very rich and very poor. He had everything money could buy. But money cannot purchase relationship. He sacrificed his wife and daughter on the altar of his corporation. When he had finished talking to me he left, and as he walked away the man with no wisdom counseled me with these words: "Enjoy your family." Which is exactly what I was doing.

Ten years ago Rick Warren wrote The Purpose-Driven Life (remember the first sentence?). Warren says that everyone lives at three levels of life. Level 1 is the survival level. On this level we have people who are barely getting by. People burning out. What these people need is not just a vacation. They need purpose. Without purpose, life becomes trivial, and pointless.

Level 2 is – the success level. People on this level are doing better than survival. In America millions of people have arrived at this level. They are able to pay their bills, have a little bit of money, have a little bit of time, enjoy activities they like to do, and buy the things they want. But you know what? There’s still this secret sense, even among successful people, that asks: “Oh really? Is this all there is to life?” It’s not really life’s failures that ultimately disappoint us. Rather, it’s life’s successes that let us down, because we expected too much from them. This so-called “good life” that everyone wants to go to -  it’s not good enough. There’s always this “hunger for more.”

The reason you have this hunger,  the reason you feel this way, is because you were made for far more than looking good, feeling good, and having the goods. This brings us to level 3 - the significance level. This is the level you were designed for. At this level you experience meaning and fulfillment at the deepest level of your soul.

So... what were you designed for? What is your purpose in life? We read it in a text like Ephesians 1:11-14, which says (in The Message):

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

Here’s the good news. No matter what you have gone through in life or what you are facing right now, the purpose of your life is greater than those problems. If you are a J-follower you are now in Him. God's plans and purposes are that you might live for the praise of His glory. New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes: “This is the ultimate aim of humanity – to live for the praise of God, to let all we are and all we do be doxology, a giving of glory to God.” (Ben Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles237)
If life has no purpose then life is, ultimately, meaningless. Consider my snowblower, whose name is S.B. 
My snowblower was made for snow, and snow was made for her. The winter of 2011-2012 was snowless in Southeast Michigan. While many rejoiced, S.B. went into a funk of hopeless despair. One day I looked outside, saw her sitting on our sidewalk looking to the skies, and praying for snow. This letter was attached to it.

Dear John:

Remember me? I am your snowblower. I haven't seen you since last March.

I miss you.

We used to spend so much time together. What's happened, John? Have I angered you? Have you found someone else?

I am lonely.

What's going on? I thought this was Michigan! So where's all the snow? What's the deal with all this sun? And "rain," which is simply unfulfilled snow?

I feel angry.

Without snow I am nothing. Without snow my existence has no purpose.

I've started to read Richard Dawkins.

John, I've become the laughing stock of the garage. Yesterday the lawn mowers were mocking me. I have become Job, and acquired his "comforters."

I am a character in Beckett's
"Waiting For a Snow."

I'm losing my faith. I question whether "snow" even exists.

I would end it all, if not for these comforting words of Sartre: “The absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusions … and without resignation either. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination liberates him."

Substitute 'snowblower' for 'man' and I think you'll get the point.

I've left the garage with its many nihilistic voices and am sitting on the very sidewalk that I've cleaned so many times before.

If you get this note come and start me. We can pretend as if these were the good old days.

Please don't put me back in the garage, or worse yet, in the summer shed.

Your servant,

Now purposeless, S.B lost hope. Finding purpose is the solution to anomie. I began to meet with S.B. and counsel her.
I used all my counseling skills with her, but she wasn't helped. I found a support group for her, but that failed, too.
The only solution, obviously, was... snow.

After the snowless winter I placed S.B. in the shed for the summer. In October I pulled her out. She was not optimistic.

And then it came.

Last week.


Raison d-etre.


The look on her face says it all.
You have a purpose. It's not about you. It's not about "personal happiness" or stuff or accomplishments. It's all about God and His glorification.
I'm so thankful that I realized this 42 years ago, that life finds its meaning and value in giving oneself away, to the glory and praise of God. Things became so different for me as I discovered the reality of God in its depth and beauty and majesty. 
2013 can be another year, if God so wills, of living differently