June 9: finding purpose

In a recent commencement address, the actress Viola Davis said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you realize why you were born.” Yesterday, I noticed the number of children in our neighbor who were riding bikes. They were not in school because summer vacation has started. How I remember the joy in knowing I had three months without school. But a week later, I was already working a summer job. I dreaded those mornings of going to work every bit as much as I dreaded going to school. I had not found a purpose. I did not know why I was born.

For most of the twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes, the writer describes the meaninglessness of life. It is all meaningless – all of it – until in the final chapter, verse 13: “fear God and keep his commandments.” What is it that we discover when we recognize there is a God? The Psalmist says: “The Lord has become my fortress and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” In Ephesians 5, Paul writes, “Be careful how you live… be filled with the Spirit.”

The first question of the Westminster catechism (why I remember this, I don’t know – I’m not even Presbyterian!) is this: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Which brings me to the final section of Ephesians 5 – words that have become somewhat controversial and often ignored: wives submit to your husbands. Of course, the prior verse (21) says, “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” This is one section where it is important to examine the whole passage and not single out one phrase. Paul commends a model for our lives – particularly the marriage relationship. That model is Jesus. Though he was never married, Jesus shows us the depth of love and the readiness to place others before himself – that is, unconditional, sacrificial love.

It was not until I established a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ that I found purpose. Wherever I am: what is the most loving thing? My actions in response to the question have become my way to glorify God, to enjoy God forever.

Today’s readings: Ecclesiastes 10-12; Psalm 94; Ephesians 5

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