Looking for Your Life’s Purpose? Do Good.

#SundayCoffee #Lectionary
Created to do Good

Getting older is an interesting experience. I get to see in real time how my priorities in life are changing. What once was so important, the focus of my energies, now seem unimportant, and what used to seem secondary now takes on greater significance. It’s normal, I guess. Different stages of life, different priorities.

In some ancient Hindu thinking, life is divided into four stages, or ashramas. We could think of these as phases of personal development. In the first stage of life, the “student” stage, upto the age of 25 or so, our lives are focused on learning things about ourselves and about life. We’re young, and the world is fresh, new, and exciting, and we’re just beginning to dip our toes into it. In the second “householder” stage, when we’re about 25 thru 50 years old, we’re more focused on establishing our life, getting married, raising a family, building a career, reaching some level of stability and success. When we reach our 50s, we shift into a “retirement” mindset where we begin handing off those worldly responsibilities to the next generation. We’re less concerned with material things like wealth and prestige, and we begin to dedicate more attention to spiritual matters — things we sense are of greater eternal value. This may lead to a final “wandering ascetic” stage in our 70s where our interests become detached from material pursuits entirely, and we become focused primarily on peace and a simpler spiritual life.

I can see these phases of development operating in my own life — from the exciting, energetic days of high school and college, to finding long-term relationships, buying a home, establishing a career. And my current phase, shifting out of that career-mode, with its emphasis on acquiring stuff for a comfortable life, into one where I’m re-evaluating what’s really important. And the “big questions” loom larger in my daily attention. Who am I really? Why am I here? Is this what I want my life to be, to mean?

This week’s Sunday lectionary reading includes a well-worn verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “We are God’s workmanship — we are what he made us — created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

If we’re fortunate enough or blessed enough to get past all the concerns about survival and success, we get to focus on things of greater, deeper meaning. And I think it really does boil down to something simple: doing good.

We are born into a beautiful but chaotic world, full of potential, full of pain and need. How will we live in this world? Will we be completely self-focused? Or will we perhaps see our life as part of a bigger, redemptive plan, a creative force for good in the world?

This is how I interpret Paul’s statement. We are born of cosmic stuff, of earthly and divine material. Paul understands Christ not just as the person Jesus, but as the timeless creative character of God. Genesis tells us we are created in the image of God and in God’s likeness — similar ideas. This is the substance of who we are. And this suggests a purpose, a meaning. Beyond simple survival. Beyond building our brands or being influencers. Beyond the superficial definitions of success we’re constantly being fed.

We are created in God’s likeness, to be and do good in this great, beautiful and messy world. Opportunities surround us. Placed there before us like Easter eggs on our path, waiting for us to recognize and respond in a God-like way: with compassion and kindness and beauty and love. All those “good” characteristics.

If there is a divine purpose for your life, it is this. Goodness to be a way of life. For you to be an instrument of the divine nature — love.

What does that look like? Everything. Everywhere. All the time.

We don’t need to wait until we enter our “retirement” or “ascetic” phase of life. Even children have the capacity to sow love and goodness around them. Even while we’re struggling to survive and make it in the world, there’s always an opportunity to do good.

And wouldn’t that be a life well-lived?

~ Have a peaceful Sunday. ~

ref: Ephesians 2:10