I need to write.
I need to work in the yard, too. I need to listen more closely to friends, make better decisions more quickly, follow-through with plans and promises more thoroughly. I need to cook more often, act in more plays, read more and better books, prepare lessons and scripts and meetings with everything I’ve got. I need to rest with more intention, dance more than once every ten years, become an enthusiastic game-player, and pray. Scripture waits for me, as does exercise, ministry, romantic interlude, and musical composition. I need to pursue stillness, quiet, pause, and contentment. I need to serve the poor, walk alongside the homeless, sit with the broken-hearted, and worship. I need to pay more attention to family. And I need to give more time to strangers who need help in finding what some call the “With-God Life.”
Someone once said, “Life is not flat.” By that, they meant that not all activity in life is of equal weight and value. Some things are more important than others. And yet…and yet…
Yesterday, with a certain bit of audacity, I took on the meaning of life in the sermon at the Northwest Church. Proverbs 18:9 was my entry:
One who is slack in his work is brother to the destroyer.
Sort of an odd place of entry, I suppose. It points toward the idea of work and diligence, and in the end I worried that people would take my conclusion to be that the meaning of life is to work hard…really hard. But no…that’s not the point at all.
The point is the tension between one who destroys and one who makes.
Over the next few days, I’m going to lay out the argument I outlined yesterday. Does it hold up? It’s always been the approach that made the most fundamental sense to me. But I’m open to the discussion.
A couple of caveats up front.
1) This is not a religious discussion. Nor is it a spiritual discussion. By saying this I am following the line of Francis Schaeffer and Dallas Willard in claiming that life is life. That while we experience as if there are separate categories of existence, there is a oneness to things, a holistic nature behind what it means to be alive. So to banish the meaning of life discussion to theology alone is to miss the fact that spiritual life is life, period, undivorced from physical life and any other kind of life you want to name. Of course, religion and spirituality will be central to the discussion, but I simply want to underline my belief that any answer to the question of the meaning of life must be holistic, encompassing–in the most straight-forward manner possible–the rather simple truth that even in with all its tensions, it is experienced as a unity. Fractured perhaps, but that fracturedness is part of the unity we experience.
2) The Ecclesiastes writer says the wise man who says he comprehends the vast array of life of human beings and the purpose of it all…doesn’t. If Solomon couldn’t do it, why bother? Well, the question doesn’t go away. We are meaning-making creatures. Give us three points, three separate events, and our minds will struggle until they can make up that one is a beginning, another a middle, and the third one an end, so that now we have a story. And it means something. But what?
3) Any understanding is a speck of dust in a universe of God-knowledge. Which means it’s mostly wrong, if not in kind, in degree.
This post is the intro, and tomorrow I’ll launch in with gusto. To set the context, the sermon series is a short six weeks on Proverbs, called A Lady, A Heart, and A Kingdom. We’ve talked about Solomon looking back over his life, regretting some of his choices, warning others about Dame Folly and the fools who listen to her, exhorting the wise to chase wisdom no matter what the cost. And he famously says at the end of Ecclesiastes, “Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” No argument there, but as an answer to the meaning of life, duty alone doesn’t quite do it.
Tomorrow, I’ll make the first point: “The Glory Before the Beginning.”
Go out and make something…