finding hope in a meangingful life


Each morning I awake I think of things I can do, things I can say, experiences I can engage and thoughts I can imagine that will make that day a meaningful one. It is truly a gift. I tell people all the time that the two best strategies I ever adopted were 1) to make a list of things I would accomplish that day and check them off as I successfully engage them and 2) I tackle the things I least want to do first and save the things I am looking forward to for last. And never to be underestimated, I look at my list before I go to bed and take some solace, satisfaction and pleasure in having made my day meaningful.

To me the most hopeful thing I can do is see that my life has purpose. Some search for hope in an afterlife context, they want to know all of this is leading to something, some place. Still others search for hope in being right, in being certain, in holding the correct answers to the questions that burn inside. I hear lots of people expressing these expressions of hope all the time. I frankly don’t know for sure what this heaven will look like, who is there and how it works. I just don’t know. I do know Jesus, who seems to know the mysteries of life, believes in heaven and promises us there is such a place. Beyond that I don’t know much. And as for certainty the older I get the less certain I am about certainty. Life is a mysterious and wondrous and strange experience. There are many ways to mess it up and even more ways to enjoy it. Trying to be the one who specifies one way to live, the right way, and then to spend my life trying to convince others I am right, that seems less than satisfying to me. Moreover I sometimes wonder if the quest to convince others of “my way” isn’t more about that person’s need to be right and less about finding that “right way”.

I don’t think I would be satisfied with a life that narrows itself to just those people I know, people who have been good to me, with the concerns of my narrow experience. When I pray I try to shift back and forth between someone I know and someone I will never know. I try to stretch myself, my prayers, from the immediate to the worldly, to the mysterious. Sure I want to be a good husband, father, friend, son, etc… But I also want to be a good citizen, human, and disciple. I think that balance is important and the things I do, say, imagine, think about need to reflect both ends of that spectrum of life, personal and global.

At the end of the day I want to squeeze everything I can out of this life. I know life is short, fragile, you can break your heart one day, find yourself in love the next, be tempted by the mundane and then be inspired to go deeper the next. Life is a continuum. I know that one my worst days something good will emerge, eventually, and on my best days something sad or painful is likely just around the corner. There is no race to life, there is no beginning, middle and end. There is only orientation, disorientation and reorientation. People often live their lives as if this myth of meritocracy means something beyond our middle-class construct. It doesn’t. In the end if you work hard to prove something to someone you will be disappointed no one was paying attention. But if you connect to something deeper, bigger and more covenantal and don’t think of it as recognition or reward you will be surprised how exciting each day can be. To know you are participating in something good, something connected and something that ripples beyond self to others and then back to you and all Creation, that is a gift. And to know that gift is to know hope.