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.