One of the most tragic moments you will ever witness is when a person begins to believe that their life does not matter. Among the many confusions of our modern moment, this must be one of the most vexing: the belief (often an undercurrent more than stated outright) that there is no purpose or meaning, that an unclenching claim to the base truth of a thing – justice, love, courage, noble choices, sacrificial friendships – are remnant shadows of a simpleton age. One who arrives at this conclusion may regret the fact or wish she could return to the time before she knew this alarming reality, but pandora’s box has been wrenched open. Almost certainly, some moral compass remains, evidenced by an instinctive revolt when a child is harmed or a minority oppressed or a mountaintop’s beauty razed for the sake of a buck, but the awful idea sticks: What I do does not, in any lasting or significant way, matter.
This is a lie, and this lie kills the soul.
The witness of the Scriptures and the actions of Jesus tell a radically different story. The invitation God gives is for us to rise up from the dirt of the ground and give ourselves to good work, exerting goodness wherever we humans have lost our way. God taps us on the shoulder and asks us to be the ones who wipe off the muck and unearth the world’s beauty, the ones who herald the splendors of what God has named true living, the ones who announce by our life and labor that every solitary spec of human effort done in response to God’s good vision for his world absolutely, positively matters.
And it is not just that ‘the world’ matters, though it does, a great deal. You matter. Your life is your participation. When Abraham Heschel spoke with young people, he would plead with them: “Start working on this great work of art called your own existence.” This was not gushy self-help. This was the prophetic pronouncement that our lives are the gifts we have been given by the God who beams over the sheer fact of us. This was the prophetic charge to take our life seriously, to see our life in all its glory and then to live with fire and conviction. We live with the magnificent knowledge that our days and our dreams and our failures and our successes all, by God’s grace, participate in the kingdom and the beauty and the hope that God promises will be coming.
You exist, and this absolutely matters. I’m glad you’re here on this big dust ball, each and every one of you. I’m glad you’re alive and kickin’ up dirt, making a beautiful mess and loving like mad and giving us what only you can give us. Your life matters.
13 Replies to “You Exist, Thank God.”
That reminder is the kindness my heart needed this morning. And the one I couldn’t coax my heart to believe on my own. I needed someone else to tell me. Thanks for being that guy.
you’re welcome, Sam. Glad I got the call this time.
Our pastor was recently reflecting on Samuel’s words to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:17, that Saul thought too little of himself in his own eyes. Together we shared about how often our scraping for life, our arrangements and our choosing away from God doesn’t come because we think too little of God, but because we think too little of ourselves—that we don’t realize our worth, that our lives MATTER. We talked about how to help people realize how very *much* they matter. Thanks for putting words to that in a way that only you can, Winn.
I like that, Tara. I’d like to hear that sermon.
Beautiful affirmation, thanks for sharing. Traveling in a long “dark night” of the soul (10+ years) has left me questioning my uniqueness, calling and gifting; in short, what I uniquely bring to the world. Often this leads to meaninglessness that begs to be numbed, to a pain that I cannot manage. If I resist the compulsion toward escaping the pain and enter into dialogue with the meaninglessness in Jesus’ presence, it begins to become a place where new life takes root. The pain mingles with grace to create contours of a new self.
Your reflection gives me another opportunity to enter into this “mingling.” Thanks, and peace.
I like this, Scott, thanks for sharing.
I do believe to think we mean nothing is one, if not the greatest lie in the world, because if we mean nothing then we sink into the mud. But when we know we are loved and precious and God is so full of joy because we are here we can then begin to live as the one we are created to be. And reflect that part of God that only we can reflect – each one us can only ever exist this one time, our charism is only for this short time and God needs us to shine that forth in this life. Then, each life shines, however broken our lampshade is – and the more it is broken the better the light can get through!
As an aged pastor of a dying church it is easy to fall into the very category you described this morning. Thanks for the reminder that every individual is special to our Lord and those who love us. Thanks for allowing God to speak through you!
Carlton, your years – and even your place of desert perhaps, with your church, affords a perspective and a wisdom that is truly a gift to the Church, to all of us.
Winn, thank you so much for this blessed reminder that our lives matter, that we have a purpose for being here, and that no matter what the world thinks of us or says about us, we will always matter to God.
you’re welcome, Deanna
LOVE this, Winn. Thank you!
you’re welcome, Diana