Walking our Faith: What is the purpose of life?
Walking our Faith
“Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” This aspirational statement greeted me when I opened my Happier Mind journal this morning to write out a gratitude list. Is that true?
But actually, the question arose in my mind earlier than my 7 a.m. appointment with morning devotions. The question arose when my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., and I lay in bed thinking about the progress of my life and some of the more embarrassing or regrettable mistakes I have made. Thankfully, I no longer make these mistakes — at least I hope I don’t.
Is this because I have matured? Or is it because a natural part of growing up is learning from our mistakes and becoming better people? But what of the people who won’t grow up and become better as they grow older? Is that a conscious choice?
We are a society that thrives on self-help for every aspect of our lives. From my Happier Mind journal to Peloton classes and 12-step meetings to church, we are determined to fix ourselves — mind, body and soul. But what compels this systematic pursuit of self-improvement?
If I remember my high school philosophy class correctly, one of the eternal questions is man’s search for meaning. Why are we here, and what are we meant to do?
Great artists and writers have tackled this question and made our world more beautiful as a result. Engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs have made our lives safer, more prosperous and more comfortable.
So when I consider that we are born imperfect, perhaps the purpose of our lives is to peel away our imperfections, slough off our mistakes and work toward our ideal selves and an ideal world.
This process of perfecting is ongoing, not just in the prime of our youth but also through each stage from birth until death. I believe one reason my mother has remained vibrant in her 92nd year is because she sees herself learning and growing, discovering wisdom and compassion as a daily practice to be cultivated. She has learned to love herself and forgive herself and to offer the same to others.
But what compels our moral and ethical behavior? It can be difficult to believe in a progressive march toward goodness in the face of political turmoil, environmental crisis and random gun violence. Are we compelled to be good as an evolutionary instinct for self-preservation? Is that the only purpose of religion?
I believe that explanation doesn’t account for the mystery of the soul. I believe we are created by God in his perfect image and because God embodies love, we are instilled with an innate instinct to love, to create a world that is more good than bad, that is constantly moving toward overcoming darkness with light.
But because we are human, we are imperfect. We can call this the remnant of Original Sin or the limitation of being mortal. But within this imperfection is the soul, which is where God plants our desire to return to him by continually turning toward love.
Perhaps our purpose is about perfecting ourselves, learning who we are by understanding who we are in the eyes of the One Who Created us. Understanding that each of us is on a unique journey, which belongs to no one else, and we to look to God alone to measure our progress and know he loves us as we are.
In the eyes of God, we are perfect and loved and, our greater purpose in this life is to share his love with one another and to become our best selves by living that message each day with the knowledge that we might never be perfect or live perfectly. But with good effort, we will not only become better people, we will create a better community.
And if we live with this one intention, our regrets in life diminish because our future is before us and God has already forgotten our mistakes. If we can allow ourselves and our family members, neighbors and strangers this same grace, imagine how our world would be transformed.
The choice is ours, and God asks us — to paraphrase Mary Oliver, one of his most wonderful poets — “What will you do with your wild and beautiful life?”
Community Thanksgiving service
6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, at Lord of the Mountains Church, 56 U.S. Highway 6, Dillon. Followed by a pie social. Bring your favorite pie to share.
Thanksgiving To Go
Provide a bag of Thanksgiving meal items to families in need. Would you or a friend like to receive a bag this year? For more information, email Terese Kiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, Father Dyer Church Fellowship Hall, 310 Wellington Road, Breckenridge
Do you have a faith-based community announcement you’d like to share? Email email@example.com.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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