The other day one of my kids, in the throes of adolescent angst, spit out these words:
“Life seems pointless; no matter what you dream of being or doing, everyone ends up average. What’s the point?”
Ouch. That was my first reaction. Is this really the fruit produced from years of sharing God’s love and teaching His word to our children? But then I gave the question more serious consideration and realized it is simply an adolescent expression of the ultimate existential question:
What is the meaning of life?
Do our individual lives matter? If so, where do we find that meaning, and how do we live lives of significance?
“Nihilism” is the term for the philosophical perspective that rejects all religious and moral principles in favor of “meaninglessness.” It asserts that there is no universal truth or universal moral law governing right from wrong. Here’s how that looks as inspiration:
Congratulations! You’re now god of your own universe. Sure, it’s only as vast as the span between your shoulder blades, and yes, lots of other micro-universes are likely to collide with yours in uncomfortable and even painful ways. But you’re in charge of you.
While it may sound exciting for a moment, it doesn’t take long to recognize that despair is just around the corner, as close as the next tragedy. Now there is no why that helps in times of suffering, no hope for justice against wrongdoing (since wrong itself is now a matter of opinion), and absolutely no reason to act in another’s best interest or to love self-sacrificially.
Fortunately, there is an alternative, a way to live that is full of meaning and purpose:
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
What does it look like to live God’s way?
When Jesus said this He had just taken off his robe and performed the lowliest task possible as a sign of His love for His apostles; He washed their dirty, grimy feet. He did this with the cross in sight. How many of us–knowing that we were about to die an excruciating death–would seek to serve and comfort rather than to be served and comforted?
Love changes everything. If we accept Jesus’ love for us, He calls us to pay it forward by loving one another in that same self-sacrificial way.
Average living happens when our love does not extend beyond our front doorsteps. Jesus reminds us that even those who are evil know how to love and bless their own children. (Matthew 7:11)
He is calling us into something more radical–a deep, abiding love for the least lovable among us, a life-giving, life-saving love made possible only when we live in the Spirit and see others through God’s eyes.
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
As we, in humility, value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3), we enjoy the greatest blessing of all: serving as an instrument in God’s plan to save the world. Our love can be one seed among many that wins souls for the Kingdom.
And then, when our days here on earth are fulfilled, our outwardly “average” lives will be radiant with the lives drawn into the light, and we will hear the ultimate affirmation that our lives had meaning–that they served a powerful and eternal purpose: