Posted by: Postordinandy | September 27, 2010

Awake my soul…

We are dipping into the ‘Big Six’ (see here for more on these) apparently randomly at the moment, and kicked off with questions about Purpose.

Each of us has struggled with these kind of questions every now and again. Why am I here? What have I done with my life? What will make me complete, or at least happy? Who does God think I am, and what does He want me to do?

The caricature suggests we wrestle with these questions at times of significant change – puberty, first job, marriage, significant illness, kids arriving, approaching 40… but in reality any of us can be struck by any of these at any time.

For Christians, questions of purpose are unavoidably linked with our relationship with God, and consequently our answers are often shaped significantly by who we believe God to be. If we believe that God wants the best for us, then we will be full of hope about any purpose we think he may have for us; this will not mean that our path towards achieving this purpose is clear, or easy – but it will give us some courage as we take each step on that path.

There is often a dissonance between what we want to believe, and what we actually do; between what we say we believe and how we actually live our lives. There are many Christians who have somehow come to the conclusion that God has plans and purpose for us that will take us in directions that we don’t want to go, cannot deal with, and that will cause us much grief and anguish. Now, some of these may indeed happen – God has not promised us that life with Him will somehow be easy and pain or complication free – but when we can only see these as the likely outcome of giving ourselves over to God’s will, then we will understandably have some hesitancy of exploring the same with any real gusto.

I wonder if one of the problems for us as we struggle to find purpose and meaning is that we usually do so within a limited scope of relationships. Finding my purpose is about me, sometimes about me and God, all too rarely about me, God and others, (other than perhaps my immediate family). This is why and how we can be hamstrung with doubt about the relationship our lives have with our purpose, and do so with no reference to anyone else’s struggles.

The “Westminster Shorter Catechism” – written to help Christians get their heads around the deep theological issues of life – states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever”. Even this could be interpreted and exercised selfishly, to a point. Some of us may be tempted to glorify and enjoy God in ways that are exclusively expressed between ‘just the two of us’ – although this could easily jettison any theology which embraces God’s saving plans for the whole of creation, and the quest justice and mercy for and in the lives of others.

But to fully embrace the catechism in this respect is to give yourself over to the pursuit of God, and of His ways, in all aspects of your life. Our purpose is then straightforwardly understood, if not always straightforwardly articulated: we are to pursue the will of God in our own lives, and in the lives of others. This will can only be grasped as a response to some form of relationship with the living God – how ever weak, confused, poorly understood or even owned. This relationship is always best nurtured when we are sharing it with others – both the joys and struggles of it.

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life… awake my soul – you were made to meet your maker” (Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul)

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