Let Your Light Shine!

Print This Post Print This Post July 21, 2012 on 10:16 am | In Purpose, Spiritual | Comments Off on Let Your Light Shine!

Shine Your Light!

You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

– Matthew 5:14-16

One of the things that I have often struggled with is the concept of life purpose.  There is fairly prevalent assumption that each of us has a life purpose – a mission or task that we are here on the Earth to fulfill – and that a crucial part of our life work is to discover and fulfill that purpose.  Certainly, many of the people that I admire – Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa – all seemed to have a sense of purpose, of a higher calling that underpinned and informed all of their thoughts and deeds.  Indeed, their ability to both challenge and inspire us seems to flow from their passionate commitment to that purpose.  And yet, I must admit that most of the time I really do not feel such a sense of purpose or higher calling.  And I must also admit, at times this feels like a failing on my part: that I am somehow not applying myself, not exerting enough effort to discover and fulfill that purpose, whatever it may be.

Upon reflection, however, the truth is that at times when I am really involved with my life, really in the flow and absorbed in the task at hand, my life feels very purposeful – despite the fact that I may not be able to articulate that purpose or relate it to a “higher calling.”  And it is equally true that there are times when I feel dissociated from my life, somehow disconnected not only from the world around me but even from my “self” – times when I am just “going through the motions” without any real sense of involvement or commitment.  What a curious combination!

Take a moment to consider the concept of purpose.  The dictionary definition is that purpose is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, or used.  This meaning of the word is fairly straightforward when applied to something that is man-made: for example, a chair.  The (typical) purpose of a chair is provide a steady platform that you can sit on.  Of course, there are other uses for a chair – for example, you can stand on a chair in order to reach something that is beyond your grasp – but generally speaking the person creating the chair has designed it to be sat upon.

Another definition of purpose is an intended or desired result; end; aim; or goal.  As in the previous definition, there is a sense of reason or explanation, in this case the reason why something is done.  For example, the purpose of this entry is to stimulate your thinking about your own life purpose.

When you think about the concept of “life purpose” – which invariably means thinking about your life purpose – the meaning of purpose becomes much less clear.  What is the intended purpose or goal of human life in general, and for my life in particular?  With a man-made entity, the concept of purpose is fairly clear, but for a “naturally” occurring entity the entire notion of purpose becomes confusing.  Never mind the purpose of my life, or even human life – what is the purpose of a tree?  a cloud?  a frog?  an ocean?

Some philosopher’s have argued that the very question of life purpose is misguided – a sort of semantic illusion that seems to be a legitimate question, but in reality is just a non-sensical construct.  For them asking “what is the purpose of my life?” is akin to asking “what color is the number 3?”.  Without wanting to argue the point from a philosophical standpoint, and acknowledging that purpose and life are not the same category of concept, I do believe that asking questions such as “what is my life purpose?” and “why am I here?” is both legitimate and meaningful, even if it is both problematic and confusing.

Since we are not self-created, man-made entities, one avenue of inquiry that makes eminent sense is to explore what our Creator might have had in mind in creating us.  And a powerful key to understanding what our Creator had “in mind” is understanding what we have “in mind” when we create something.  We have already seen one example where the concept of purpose is fairly clear – a chair.  But even in the man-made realm, there are created entities where the purpose is not as cut and dried.  For example, what is the purpose of painting?  a symphony?  a novel?  In a trivial sense we can say that the purpose of a painting is to provide us with something to look at, the purpose of a symphony is to provide us with something to listen to, and so on, but I don’t think the artist would agree that the purpose of their painting is just to provide us with something to look at.  For that matter, a wood craftsman that is creating a chair would probably take issue with the concept that the sole purpose of a chair is to provide a platform for us to sit on.  From the craftman’s viewpoint, the chair is also something to look at, to touch and feel – indeed, something to develop a relationship with.  So perhaps the distinction between man-made and “natural” entities is not as clear cut as it first appeared.

One thing I have learned over the past several years as a creator of things both trivial and significant, is that the primary motivation for creating anything is . . . love.  The reason we create something is that we love the image or sense we have about the thing we want to create so much that we want to bring it into being.  In that sense, the purpose of the created entity is simply to be, and to be loved by the creator.  Indeed, the entity is loved by the creator even before it exists, and it is precisely that love the fuels the creative process that brings the entity into being.

What about our Creator, whoever or whatever you conceive him/her/it to be?  One of the central tenets of Christianity, as well as many other religions and spiritual traditions, is that we are created in God’s image – that in some way we mirror the attributes of the Divine Spirit that created us.  And nowhere is this premise more true than when we assume the role of creators ourselves.  It is in our nature to create – and insofar as we fully participate in the dance of creation we are part of the flow of love that brings all of creation into being.  So perhaps the most direct avenue to understanding our purpose as “creations” of the Divine Spirit is to examine our relationship to those things that we create.  And that relationship between the creator and the thing being created is always one of love, even when (and perhaps most especially) when it seems otherwise.  What besides love would impel us to continue our creative efforts in the face of confusion, setbacks, and other challenges that inevitably accompany the creation of anything meaningful?

So for those of you who, like me, sometimes struggle with the idea of life purpose, let me close with a little gem from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, one of the central documents of doctrine and faith to come out of the English Reformation:

Question 1: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

There you have it – your purpose is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.  And how, precisely, are we to glorify God?  In the opening passage, Jesus of Nazareth gave us clear instructions: let your light shine.

Go forth and shine!

 

Father

Print This Post Print This Post December 31, 2009 on 5:34 pm | In Courage, Death, Love, Relationships, Spiritual | Comments Off on Father

Father

Deep in slumber,
Cradled in the heart of darkness,
The silence parts to cellular music
Inviting me to awaken
And dream no more.

From the far side of the planet
My sister’s soft voice
Conveys in tones and pauses
An immensity
That mere words cannot capture:

Our father has died. 

Alone in my bed I breathe:
Slowly and deeply in, filling my chest with the promise of life;
A pause then, as I consider my destiny
And the gap between my dreams and waking life;
And finally release, as I surrender to the moment:
Broken, empty, and utterly spent.

As the tears begin to pool
In eyes that search the ceiling, the heavens, the stars,
For answers to an elusive, lifelong quest
I blink and the rivers begin to flow
For my father, for me,
And for each precious, sacred child
That dares to dance and sing
With its heart split wide open.

And as the rivers flow
I know that I am loved
That I have always been loved
And that this chest is being hollowed out
To contain even more love, more tears, more joy
Than I have ever known or can know.

Where the rivers meet the sea
The Earth is soft and pure and clean
And our footsteps leave their temporary imprints
On the sands of time.
 
Father, when I was young you always led the way
Discerning the trail that would carry us to the mountain’s top –
Our next adventure, our continuing quest –
And I was glad to follow.

Again you lead the way
But here on the beach
We walk side by side
With the luminous Nazarene ahead
Beckoning us forward

And as we are met
His embrace enfolds us
In a peace that blossoms from deep within –
A soft explosion of white rose petals
That gently settle and carpet our hearts
With the fragrance of love.

Placing his holy hands upon my shoulders
He looks into me with loving eyes that pierce my every defense
Then holds me again as his unspoken message sinks in:
I can follow no further,
It is time for me to return.

As he takes your hand and turns to lead the way home
You glance backwards with tears of joy
Streaming down your stubbled cheeks,
With the light of love shining in your eyes,
And smile at me.

At last I turn to face our footprints in the sand
While gentle waves dance and foam along the shore
Washing away every trace of our passing.

I love you, Father
And I receive your love:
A love for which there are no words:

Unconditional, unbounded and eternal.

In loving memory of my father, William L. Scott
December 26, 1935 – December 2, 2009

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