Monday, July 18, 2011

Life Without Purpose . . . Possibly a Good Thing?

I spent the past week end hanging out with a bunch (maybe 200) of 20-30 year olds who would be classified (sociologically) as "Hipsters." Now the reason I was with them, wasn't some old man trying to reconnect with his lost youth, but the fact it was a music festival and one of my sons was playing in two different bands.

As I watched the people, listened to them talk, and listened to the lyrics I had an overwhelming feeling that they had no specific purpose in life and would find it amusing that I would mention that fact. Now the old Evangelical Mike would feel sad for them at this point. But the new (but old) mike sees it two ways.

There is a bit of loss that I must grieve. Just like any post-modern society, you feel a loss when people don't have a purpose because they simply have given up. Many of them feel that there is no way we can understand why we are here, so why bother trying. It is the loss of hope and and it is a kind of despair that we should cry about.

But there are also lessons to be learned from them.

I spent a good 25 years deep in the Evangelical movement. During the first 15 years I was in a hard-core discipleship center and we held the following beliefs:

1) God's only purpose of this planet is a place where people can be saved for Heaven.
2) God's only purpose for the church is the Great Commission.
3) God's only purpose for the individual is to find that very precise place in the machinery of the Great Commission where they fit. Actually where they were designed for. We believed that we were predestined to fulfill a very specific place.

During my formative years as a disciple, my number one commission (as I was taught) was to find out what my "calling" was. I eventually became 100% convinced that God had created me, allowed me to be born on this earth with a singularity of purpose . . . to win Muslims to Christ.

I became convinced of this through a chain of several superstitious events. First, I signed up to go to Nepal on a summer missions program (in 1982) but was reassigned to go to Oman. I went. I fell in love with the people, the culture and my wife who was there as well.

As I was putting the pieces together, I remembered a couple other things, which were early in my life, that were proof that God wanted me to give the rest of my life for this purpose. First, the one "love-a-bye" that my mother first sung to me (when I was two and still remember it well) was about riding a camel. Secondly, when I was a child, we had a tapestry in our living room of a caravan stopping at an oasis. That was the only proof I needed. From the day I was born, God had only one purpose for my existence.

So, jumping ahead, one of the reasons that my failure on the mission field in the Middle East was so devastating, was the fact that my entire identity and purpose for living had been tied up in it. I think it is the same reason that a good friend of mine, out of the same discipleship center, has become catatonic now that he has "failed" as a missionary to China. He has sat in a same chair for the past three years, since returning.

But now Solomon is my hero. I follow his seeking to find his purpose in so many things. He finally reaches the conclusion that the good things of life aren't fitting like a key in a very finely tooled lock or cog in well oiled (and predestined) machine. But Solomon (remember the wises person that ever lived) concludes, or begs the question, that sipping coffee down at the coffee shop and having a conversation about boats, or wearing your Walkman and laying on a hammock and listening to good music, or sitting in a hot tub drinking a beer and looking up a the blue sky is the substances of a good life. Are these the things that we were made for? Possibly. So the Hipsters have part of it right, even if the reason they got to this point was their loss of hope and the possibly of knowing why about anything.


kg said...

I think you've got something here!

Anna A said...

I like your thinking on this. I've often been puzzled why I didn't have a strong drive to succeed and now to get my poetry published.

Perhaps, we need to think about just enjoying both the ride and the scenery. This is a marvelous world, full of beauty and interesting folk.

jmj said...

Speaking of poetry, in the same way my sons introduced me to fiction, they are now trying to introduce me to poetry. I think writing and reading poetry are some of those things that we were intended for.

peaceofchange said...

I haven't visited here in a while...and now I am reminded of why I keep coming back. You take my thoughts/emotions and communicate them to me in a way that I can understand and relate without feeling guilty and thinking I've lost my mind...thank you for that!

On another note, when we returned/failed at our church planting endeavor...I had a chair too. I now refer affectionately refer to it as my "mentally disturbed" was a good place for sitting an thinking and rethinking my faith, but, I had to get up. I hope your friend can find the strength to get up as well. I'm just now starting to enjoy my 45....

Great post. Thanks again!