the blogging process is, for me, a lot more about exploration and conversation than it is destination and conclusion. Sometimes I lose sight of that as I write, and I end up diagnosing or making conclusions, but really, the reason I start out to write is always just to take the thought map from my head and make it tangible and readable. So, please take today’s as such, because as usual, I don’t have a destination in mind, but I have a lot I’ve been thinking about.
As my last post indicated, I’ve been reflecting on the passing of a dear, dear friend of mine. A life that was precious and full, and extremely meaningful. He had an impact on me I hadn’t realized until he was gone (from this life) and a legacy which seamlessly pointed to Jesus, not to him. A lot of things go into perspective when you lose a friend. When you realize the impact they had, you start to wonder about the impact you have.
It makes me wonder how purposeful my life really is. What am I living for? Am I living well for it? How would I be remembered? How do I come off to people? Are the things I’m doing important? Am I focused on the right things at the right time?
I’ve written a lot in the last 6 months or so about feeling overwhelmed, about feeling adrift, anxious, amiss, etc. Sometimes I come to conclusions about it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’ve thought I landed at a conclusion but it turned out I was just as lost as when I started writing.
Personally, I am starting to think that’s just called “adulthood.” I realize more and more that a lot of things have changed in the last two years of my life, and it’s okay to need a little bit of space to recover. It’s okay to lag a little bit behind while my head and my heart catch up with each other (often times, a different one leads the line a little bit.)
Since I realized I’m normal, I’ve felt a lot better. I feel more capable of coping with adulthood, I feel more capable of receiving grace, I feel more capable of balancing work, relationships, and personal time. I feel…okay. I feel good. I feel normal.
And yet, since arriving at this conclusion, since entering this “space,” if you want to call it that, I’ve started asking those questions I listed above (about the trajectory of life) and even moreso since my friend’s passing. It brings up this dichotomy in my head that I’m sorting through right now.
The biggest question, the one that encapsulates all of the little questions and issues, is this: what now?
Now that you’re an adult, now that you work a job, have a girlfriend, have a bank account, got a dog, have your own place, etc. What’s it all for? What’s the endpoint? Because, I’m afraid, it’s all too easy to get caught up in everything for its own sake. And I have undoubtedly done so with each and every thing. I got entirely consumed with my job once I got it and took it on full-time. Then, when I started dating Julie, I gave her all my energy and attention, to where I sometimes resented work for taking me away from her for any span of time. And I got a dog, and started having anxiety about taking care of him, both financially and in terms of how much time I could spend with him walking and playing and giving him a good life. I called my mom in tears asking if she could take him on for a while, because I couldn’t quite do it.
In other words, everything seemed to hit faster than I could keep up with it.
And now I sit here wondering, what’s it all for? None of it is pointless, surely – because if it were pointless, why would I feel so invested in every single thing? If it were pointless, I wouldn’t feel the drive and desire to work as much as I do; I wouldn’t give the time, energy, and attention I do to nurturing my relationship with Julie; I wouldn’t care so much about giving my dog a good life if it didn’t mean anything.
So what’s all the nitty gritty for? What purpose does the day-in and day out stuff serve?
Let me take a crack at it (and I may be entirely wrong!)
Harken back to the garden of Eden, when God gave the first Great Commission to mankind – “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every other living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
That was the original commission – the “purpose” as it were of mankind. And that, I opine, never changed. Mankind still exists to, quite simply, fill the earth. We’re just supposed to live.
But I think the big question (and where I will likely deviate and get tangential) is this: how are we supposed to live?
I have a favorite answer for this question. It comes in Micah 6:8, which says, “He (God) has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
To me, that makes it all very simple: live justly, love kindness (some translations say love mercy) and walk humbly with your God. In other words, don’t screw people over, have mercy on people who screw you over, and know your place. Sounds easy enough. But sometimes it isn’t so easy.
Sometimes it is easy because it makes perfect sense how things don’t fit into the equation of justice and mercy. For example, look at Galatians 5, which outlines some works of the flesh: sexual immorality, idolatry, jealousy, fits of anger, envy, orgies, etc. (I skipped a few, some deliberately, some not.) Those sensibly defy the equation. Sexual immorality and orgies go against walking humbly with God, because you’re taking a gift God has given and you’re taking away the gravity of it – making it more fun than it is intimate, making it for you, stripping it of God’s intention. Makes sense. Idolatry, same thing. It’s putting something before God. Jealousy, fits of anger, and envy make a lot of sense because you’re seeking your own first instead of seeking and rejoicing in the good of others – instead of rejoicing in a friend’s life, or their possessions, you’re wanting them for your own; instead of living peacefully, you live angrily, upsetting the stasis of justice, etc. those make sense.
Sometimes it isn’t so easy because there are things that I wonder their place in the equation. Take a bunch of the classic Christian no-nos: smoking. alcohol. cursing. Maybe some of these are culturally decided, and therefore blurry. I was taught growing up not to do any of these – but is there a chance they don’t defy the Micah 6:8 equation? Does someone who smokes automatically hate justice? Is the argument that they’re harming their own body, a gift God has given? Does enjoying a drink mean someone doesn’t love mercy? Does uttering a four-letter word when I stub my toe or forget something important at work mean I don’t care for justice and shalom (peace) in the world?
I could be wrong. And I realize I’m going against what a lot of people tend to think. And surely, lots of things can easily break down and lead to an imbalance and destruction of justice. If I have too many drinks, I may do or say something in a place where I can’t control myself and create a problem. My biggest problem with sex outside of marriage (even if two people are consenting and decide mutually) is: what if you don’t have the safeguard of marriage against the risk of sex, namely having a child? Surely it is unjust to have a child and have an irresponsible man walk away from the mother and child because he isn’t ready to take care of them. That is injustice. Surely injustice exists when I use cursing to berate and belittle another human being.
I suppose the picture I’m aiming to put together in my mind is how individual sanctification fits into the picture of the changing of the world or, as I’ve heard it called, shalom.
Shalom is a word that means “peace.” It means wholeness, it means completeness. Perfect health, perfect context, perfect environment. In our context, it means children have homes and loving parents. It means that there are no hungry or poor because wealth is distributed as needed (and this is not a capitalism/socialism/communism debate.) It means help for the helpless, needs met for the needy. It is the world as it should be.
Will we see it in this life? I don’t think so – I think it’s something that will come with the consummation of the Kingdom of God. But I believe that we slowly and surely move towards it as individuals are sanctified. I don’t think that one exists without the other, but I believe that neither picture can be neglected. I cannot focus too much on the big picture of justice and wholeness in the world and do whatever I want as an individual, but I cannot focus too heavily on getting my own ducks in a row and lose sight of the fact that the world needs justice, the world needs mercy, the world needs shalom.