Have you ever felt like the world is moving faster than is comfortable? Have you ever gotten to the end of a normal day and felt like you need a week to recover? Have you ever realized you are holding your breath for the next vacation? I think it isn’t supposed to be like this.
What is your purpose for having been created? Stop and see if the answer lives somewhere inside of you. Each day you get up – why?
I believe we aren’t stopping to ask ourselves that question nearly enough. We’re in too much of a rush.
The natural order has a certain rhythm. In a New England December, the days grow short, the weather grows cold, and a stillness overwhelms creation. Flowing water freezes to a stop. The life underneath slows and waits. Land animals, too, are in tune with this rhythm. They respond with hibernation and live off the stores of their autumn work. Birds vacate to warmer climates.
Humans, too, have (and respond to) a natural rhythm. The sun stirs us to work and the darkness calms us to rest. Hunger entices us to prepare and satiation lulls us into sedation. The warmth invites us to run, swim, climb, and the cold chases us into the warmth of home, hearth, and bed.
Modern humans often fall prey to a different rhythm. It’s invasive and asks us to fall for the lie that these natural rhythms are counterproductive. So we flood lights into the darkness, working the night away. We caffeinate and stimulate against sedation, missing important beats of rest throughout a day. We blast cold and ice with salt, plows, and car scrapers, complaining about the extra step rather than savoring a snow angel or a minute of catching snowflakes on eyelashes and tongues.
We push through December in shopping malls, growing to-do lists, year-end reports, recitals, exams, travel, and parties. We are likely less rested in December than any other time of year. I wonder – do the animals laugh at us?
A pervasive lie in our society is that rest is beneath us. This lie tells us that a person on a couch is worth less than a person at a job. It tells us that a person who read a book today isn’t living up to his/her potential the same way a person who wrote a book is. It tells us that playing a board game or drawing a picture or laughing at a joke is inherently less valuable than marketing a board game, selling a picture, or selling out a comedy club.
Don’t fall for it.
This post began by asking us you to consider your purpose. I can’t say what any one person’s purpose is. I can say with confidence what I was given, and that’s a vision. This vision comes from the creator, and it’s been inside of me since before I was even born. It’s from the same creator who, after creating sun and stars, moon and earth, water and land, plants and animals, and humans, “rested.” (Genesis 2:2)
My vision is a picture of God creating not just Heaven and Earth generally, but of me specifically. Can you picture the same thing? Does God’s creation of you, of your unique place in the universe, lie within you somewhere?
According to what he showed me, all of Heaven waits for us. All of Heaven is wise to the fact that God created all things and people just to shine. They are, in some grand way, pointless. New parents don’t look at a baby and think, “But what can it do?” They adore its sleeping face, its precious features, its first sounds. They marvel at its laugh and adore its sneezes. The baby delights the parents just by being. So, too, are we delightfully pointless. And all of Heaven adores God’s creation in us, and waits for us to look up and realize that when we stop and stargaze, Heaven is gazing back at us.
God doesn’t wait for us to make or do or produce. These things will one day all turn to dust. We were not created to be in competition with each other for busiest, most successful, or most productive. We were created to bloom.
And the great thing about flowers is that one flower’s beauty doesn’t diminish the next’s. Another beautiful flower on top of another on top of another simply makes a more beautiful garden. I imagine how ludicrous it would seem to the gardener if some of the flowers plucked themselves up and began raking, digging, sowing. If they said, “Well I can’t just stay here and be beautiful, can I? Don’t I have to earn my spot here?” Ah, little flower. You earned it by blooming. And the gardener found you worthy of effort even before you bloomed.
I call this an eschatological vision because the word eschata, Greek for “last things,” asks us to look toward the end of time. What is the purpose of all of this, of all creation? Where are we headed? Is there an ultimate goal? My hope is that whatever we do with our lives, we do with an eschatological vision. I am tired of living life quickly so as to accomplish what I think I am supposed to today. Thinking about what I must accomplish today is too small. What am I supposed to accomplish ultimately? If what I do today isn’t a small part of that bigger picture, then my effort is simply putting paint on a house already on fire.
We so often leave the frenzied, unnatural pace of modern-day December with a hunger to fix, to rehabilitate. Something inside us hungers for a change. Something knows that this frenzied life isn’t what we were made for. Something knows we aren’t blooming. Something knows there is supposed to, at some point, be a time of “stop,” of “wait,” of “just be.” Something wants this natural reset.
The tick from one calendar year to the next reinforces the idea that now is the time. But instead of unplugging, resting, and recovering from a month that likely went against our natural desire for a season of hushed expectancy, our modern world reinforces the same lie that got us into this mess. It tells us the solution to feeling like this is to work harder, faster, with more intention. We make resolutions.
We wonder if perhaps more exercise, more healthy food, more stimulating activities, more dedication to practices that take us toward some imagined version of ourselves will help us.
We exacerbate the problem.
Because: some imagined version of us is empty if it doesn’t have meaningful connection to the current version of us. True, it is a good and holy practice to take what we are, envision what we can be, and live a life of intentional growth from one to the other. I shouldn’t deny that. Setting goals and living with resolve isn’t the enemy. However, it is the enemy when the goals lack eschatological vision. When the goals don’t take who I am today and see God’s purpose for me and how it fits in to the rest of the garden.
A gardener takes a seed and waters it into a seedling. A seedling grows into a flower or a plant. God asks us to see what we are and also what we are called to be. Meaningful resolutions – living with intention – help call us forward.
However, a watermelon seed is wasting its energy if it seeks to grow into a lilac. That’s not its purpose. Our resolutions are a lie when they reinforce a goal that isn’t in line with our purpose. It is a wonderful use of our gifts when we seek to be healthier, leaner, well exercised versions of ourselves. However, we fall short of our purpose when we think we were only created to be lean, skinny, and 20 pounds lighter than I am this year. Our resolutions are empty when they don’t have eschatological vision. When they don’t begin with the question, “What’s my purpose?” Any effort that doesn’t help us bloom in the unique way God made us for is like chaff in the wind. It will blow away one day, and it will keep us from recognizing that the gardener is looking right at us this very moment asking just one thing: do you see me adoring you?
What is your reaction to the idea that God created you for a purpose? What is your reaction to the idea that that purpose isn’t to make something, invent something, or be famous, but simply to shine? What if all of your life’s greatest accomplishments will come out of a sense of shining, of blooming, of being whole and beautiful as you are, and not in search of it?
Our resolutions are empty when they reinforce the lie that tells us rest and Sabbath are the enemy. Rest and Sabbath are the moments we can enjoy the gift of our existence. They are crucial elements in growing into the version of ourselves God is calling out.
My resolution is to stop living at a pace that fails to take a beat when I want it. That places whatever I think has to take priority over that beat. I’m done ignoring the beats of rest; any musician will tell you the rests are as important as the music, and a theologian might add that God does his most important work in those beats. Work on me in those beats, Lord. I’ll even hold them an extra second. That’s where I see you gazing at me, and if I want, I can gaze back. What am I in such a hurry to do that trumps that?
My prayer for all of us as we begin 2020 is that we have eschatological vision. That we slow down enough to see clearly (20/20 pun!) our own purpose, our own beauty, and our own creator looking down on us in love. That we will stop to look back at that loving gaze that pursues only our attention, and that we offer our attention long enough to be present to our own reactions. They will spring forth when we sit still, and they will speak to us truths that will drown out the voices of lies that tell us to hurry up and look busy.