What is the purpose of my life?
Haven’t you asked that question at least a million times?
I talk and write much about this, precisely because I think about it almost all the time.
How would you complete this sentence? “The purpose of my life is _____________.”
It’s not so easy to do, is it?
Mark Twain purportedly said, “The two most important days of your life are these: the day you are born and the day you figure out why.”
Have you? Figured out the “Why?” I mean. “I showed up for the purpose of _______.”
When Moses came down from the mountain, after having visited with God, legend has it, his face was “radiant” because he had been with God (Exodus 34:29ff). Earlier, God called him to be the Deliverer (Exodus 3). Do either of these answer the question of the point and purpose of Moses’ life?
When the Buddha arose from under the Bodhi Tree, legend has it, he was mistakenly thought by some to be a God. So much so, in fact, one inquirer kept pressing, “If not a God, then what are you?” Finally, Buddha replied, “I am awake.” Is this the point? The awakening of consciousness? Expanded consciousness?
When Jesus spoke metaphorically and referred to himself as the “door” the “way” the “Good Shepherd,” the “light of the world” and so forth, and also said, “I have come that you might have life abundant” (John 10:10), was he suggesting he was the point of your life and mine? That to have the life he described as abundant, we had to have him? Or, was he pointing us by his example toward the way to such an abundant life?
And, what does “abundant life” really mean? And, what does it mean to be “awake” or to come down from a mountain, face radiant with presence?
I cannot say for certain. But maybe all of these stories and descriptions are pointing to something of the same thing. How you interpret any of them depends largely on your background or upbringing.
I was raised to believe the point of human existence is to get “saved.” That meant to confess to God my awareness of the miserable state of my sinfulness. Further, it meant to beg him to forgive me, as well as put my faith in Jesus who gave his own life as a sacrifice for me. The substitution of his life made it possible for me to be forgiven and, as a consequence, make heaven and avoid hell when I died.
That was pretty much it. Apart from this, the point of my life was to be a good person. Whenever I asked what that meant, I was told it meant to abstain from evil vices like smoking and drinking or having sex before marriage. It meant being a good American citizen and to not steal but especially from God. Therefore, weekly church attendance was mandatory, if I were a serious Christian, and the paying of my tithes and offerings to the church – which was considered synonymous with giving to God, were clearly the purposes for my life as well.
Sound familiar to any of you?
Now, had I grown up in the Pentecostal Christian world, all of the above would have been similar but with these additional explanations as to the point of human existence: The purpose of your life and mine was not only to be “saved” and so make heaven and miss hell but, as explained by Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer’s and the like, the purpose of life is to enjoy abundance also, and lots of it.
Abundance translated into health, the avoidance of sickness, as well as aging, and plenty of this world’s finer things, as in nice cars, a nice home in a good neighborhood, and money enough to buy whatever your heart desired, including a vacation home somewhere in the Florida Keys.
Are either of these messages, however, right? Is the point or purpose of your life to avoid hell, make heaven and have all the good things of life while you’re briefly trapped in between the two now?
If that’s what you think, then you have much explaining to do…as in, why neither of these purposes ever seemed to be discussed, emphasized, much less enjoyed by any of the spiritual masters mentioned above?
Moses, for example, left abundance in Pharoah’s palace, as did the Buddha. I think you know the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ life. Not only did he not have anything material, as far as we know, but he seemed infinitely more interested in how people lived in this life and treated each other in this world than he was about anything after this life. Besides, were it not for the women disciples who traveled with him and shared their resources with him, he might have lived almost exclusively in abject poverty (Luke 8:1f). Maybe he did in spite of their generosity.
May I suggest something to you? It will be radical to those raised, as I was, in very conservative Christian environments. It will be scandalous even for those who think their way of believing is the “right” way and that all other ways are either inferior or, worse, just plain wrong. But, if you have an open mind at all, then consider the following:
You were not born to get “saved” so you would avoid hell and make heaven.
You were not born to be “healthy” and “wealthy” this side of eternity.
As far as I can tell, you and I show up simply to know and to share in the joy of knowing and walking with God…which is a whole lot like knowing yourself, as well as enjoying and sharing yourself with others.
I’m pretty sure this is it. That this is my “calling” and yours as well. Which is why I wrote The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. Of Enoch, a mythological character in Old Testament folklore, it is said, “Enoch walked with God” (Gen. 5:24).
What could be more sacred than this? Or, more purposeful and satisfying? Or, life-enhancing?
I’m pretty sure your purpose in life…your reason for being…is somehow tied up in this mystery.
“How can I know this for certain?” you ask.
You cannot. You’ll just have to let go of your need for certainty. Security is impossible to find this side of eternity.
What I can say with some modicum of certainty is this: when I finally gave up the trite and meaningless explanations for my purpose in life given to me by sincere but sincerely misguided people, I set out on a journey to know…to discover for myself…to climb, so to speak, Mount Horeb, as did Moses, to sit under every Bodhi-like tree I could find, as did the Buddha, to figure out some how, some way the meaning of “abundant life,” as Jesus described it and, guess what?
I discovered for myself this single but important truth: There is NO destination on the spiritual quest; the quest IS itself the destination. Inside the quest I have discovered the question is being answered. The Sufi prophet Ghalib put it poetically, “For the raindrop, joy is entering the river.”
“How might I begin this quest, too?” you ask.
I’m pretty sure that the question means your quest has begun already.