It doesn’t often pay to have preconceived ideas or expectation for your life. Reality seldom fulfills expectations. We want what we want. Call it human autonomy, call it self-determinism. Or call it foolishness. The last time I checked none of us holds a remote that controls life. You can battle for financial independence. You’re still going to die. You can receive the praise of your peers, achieve standing, plan … for what? A few good years of retirement before you cash in? Maybe. Or maybe plan, work, build and then when it “all” seems to be within your grasp, some idiot makes an ill-advised maneuver in a vehicle and sends you to the hospital or mortuary. If you’re looking for fairness in this life as we define fairness you’re looking in vain. Stuff happens all the time that you cannot plan for or anticipate. Like Sisyphus, the man in Greek mythology who was doomed by Zeus to eternally roll a boulder up a mountain, we often seem to fight a losing battle. He was condemned to never make it. Just as he’d get to the peak it would roll down to the bottom and he’d have to start all over. Tough huh? Not so far fetched though. Any dad or mom who tries to keep their home and yard straight will appreciate the story. Today’s neat house will be tomorrow’s disaster. That nice mowed lawn will be a jungle in a week, etc.. So, what do we expect, what should we expect? Well, for one, expect life to be fairly unpredictable (Jas 4:13-17). I don’t know what will happen in five minutes let alone five days. By all means, plan. But, don’t expect things to necessarily go your way. They might now and then. Be grateful when things work out but don’t be surprised if the end result is not what you envisioned. Expect God to act and do what is best, even if what is best doesn’t follow your pre-envisioned script. It will be better, believe me, than having had your way. Cindy and I wed and raised a family. We had ideas about how things were going to go. The problem was, the kids had ideas too. Parents can (mostly) impose their vision of “the way things should be” for a while. And then the little darlings decide to fight for their own ideas regarding how things ought to be done. Parental satisfaction and comfort (“and sometimes glee’) can come from watching their grandchildren put their kids through the same things they experienced. Call it “schadenfreude,” call it revenge, call it sour grapes but it is real. “Hah, that’s what you get for putting me through that!” one thinks as they watch a son or daughter cope with newly assertive children (say, about 14 yrs old). Or you’ve given your notice, bought the motorhome (in my case, a it will be nice tent!) and planned your itinerary. And…you get gallstones or shingles or something much worse. And at some point, one hopes later than sooner, either something will whack you (a truck maybe, or an illness etc) and you check out. And maybe, just maybe you will look up from your hamster wheel before that happens and wonder what it was or is all about. Did anything actually matter? My life’s ambition has never been to be planted under a nice lawn somewhere.
What am I driving at? Solomon said that life was meaningless, vain, empty and a striving after wind. Shakespeare (In Macbeth) has a character lamenting that life was an actor "strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage" and that it was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Really? What a gloomy outlook! But, absent a regard for God, that is about all life holds for you. It’s a quick ride. And death is a wall that no one can climb over or dig under. All one’s plans and schemes slam against it and lose. What is thereby exposed is the futility of human aspirations divorced from the fear of the Lord. Life here is short, and a struggle. If the only meaning life has is temporal, we are in a world of hurt. So, the focus needs to be on that which lasts. But it isn’t just that there is some nebulous “something” beyond this life. There is a definite promise of reward and of judgment. Ever see a kid on the ball field just sort of going through the motions? Coaches hate that. They want motivation and passion on the field. How do you approach daily life? Just squeezing by? Or are you purposeful? If God is real, and if this life is not the ultimate end for us, if today’s choices indeed influence our eternal lives then we need to pay attention!
God will show us the meaning of things someday. What is fuzzy now will become clear. I try not to think much at all about life’s meaning. I do think a lot about life’s purpose. That is something I can sink my “teeth” into. God calls us to love Him emotionally, mentally and vigorously (Ok, that’s my paraphrase - in sacred writ it says “with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”). If we love Him, we will also love His Son whom He sent. That is one purpose. Is God an “also ran” in my life or my priority? If He comes first, what does it look like? Do I pray, do I read and take in His word? Am I in fellowship with His people as He commands? Am i serving? It isn’t people who say they follow Christ who actually follow but those who do. Our second purpose is to love our neighbor as ourself in obedience to God’s command (e.g., Mk12:31). One can live a long life and never exhaust those two things. They become the rudder that steers you.
So, knowing how easy it is to get spiritually and mentally bogged down in daily living, let me exhort you (and myself) to live with purpose. Seek Him, seek to serve, seek to treat those around us with kindness and respect. Seek to know Him better daily and make Him known. Look up from your preoccupations and see things for what they are - temporary. We Christians should live in this world with purpose. We should use this world’s stuff and hold it lightly because we know life here is fleeting. We are to view everything through the lens of an eternal destiny - a mission, if you will. Only then when we come to the end will we be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That is what I aspire to and I pray that it will motivate all of us. And my expectation is that God is good and will sustain and guide us in the process.