Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Purpose For Everything?

Rick Warren has caught the attention of millions all across America with his book, The Purpose Driven Life. His thesis, that God has a purpose for our lives and we will find fulfillment and satisfaction by living out that purpose has been studied and discussed in thousands of churches. Many people buy into the idea that we can't be happy without being driven by some purpose. Certainly, businesses and organizations, even churches, should be guided by a clearly understood mission or purpose. And as individuals, we don't want to just drift aimlessly through life.

But there is another side to this coin. Marion Milner in A Life Of One's Own, writes about finding out what she liked ... how she most liked to spend her time. She wrote, "I want a chance to play, to do things I choose just for the joy of doing, for purpose of advancement."

As we grow older we develop the idea that we must have a purpose for everything. If we go for a long walk its because we think it is good for us, we need the exercise. It isn't for the walk itself, the feel of the ground beneath our feet, the sound of birds singing in the trees, or the sights and smells of flowers along the way. If we play golf we "work" on our swing -- and it is work aimed at lowering our score, winning a bet, or accomplishing some other purpose. It isn't for the joy of a round in the early morning by yourself, of playing with close friends, of enjoying the challenge of nasty weather, of allowing yourself to feel good over a solid long iron or a tricky putt, even when it barely slides by the hole.

When everything must be done for the purpose of advancement play becomes effort, and effort becomes work, and the joy of doing it just for the sake of doing it is lost.

I guess what we need is a purpose in life that's broadly enough defined so that we can do some things for no purpose at all. As our choir director says repeatedly during rehearsals, after explaining something, "does that make sense?" Or as Ecclesiastes puts it, "There is a time for every delight under heaven --" (3:1).

Could it be that we miss the joy of the Lord's Supper because we have made it our duty, our work, our effort. We have come to receive the grace of God, not earn it, to enjoy the love of God, not force it, and to experience the presence of Christ, freely. Does this make sense? I think it does.

1 comment:

Tom said...

So today I purposefully delighted in reading your meditations... thank you George (and Frances!)for "blogging." What a wonderful idea.