the purpose of life?

Often in the past I've found it helpful to think about "the purpose of life." Or, more specifically, what I thought my particular purpose in life is. It seemed to help give me direction, or help focus me again when I was getting lost in the many confusing demands of daily life. It was during such a time of seeking purpose that I found a new interest in the life and teachings of Jesus.

But lately it seems that focusing on my "purpose" has become less helpful. Maybe it's partly because I've seen how often I've failed to live up to the purposes I've pursued. And it's partly because I've seen how often my purposes (and the purposes of others) have been misguided, unachievable, or simply unworthy of a human life. But I think the biggest issue for me right now is that having "a purpose" seems too much like having "a job."

A purpose in life, even if it's seen as a purpose given to us by God, still seems to be a goal or task to be accomplished, a work to be done. Maybe that seems good to us at times, because we want to feel valuable or needed or useful. And there certainly is a satisfaction that comes from completing a task that has been set before us. But focusing our life around a goal or type of work does seem to suggest that our value is in what we produce, that we are workers that are valued as means to an end. Then there are the troubling questions that arise: How well (or much) are we working? Are we working towards a good enough goal? What happens when we can't work any more?

And it seems to me that Jesus' teaching and example lead us to a different understanding, that it isn't our work that God wants—it's us. To be with us. Because God loves us, each of us. Jesus' life and sacrifice wasn't about gathering an army or a workforce to reshape the world, but about reuniting each of us with God. What we are offered is not just the purposes of God, but the Person of God. And that is what we all long for most deeply.

When I find myself getting confused or anxious amid the many demands of daily life, I'm finding it much more helpful to reach out to the Person, rather than a purpose. Remembering that (despite what most everyone else seems to say) I'm not the means to something else that someone wants, I myself am what God wants. And God is what I want. That is a "goal" that is worthy of a human life, and God makes that achievable right now, in this moment. And in the next moment, whether it be work together, or rest together, crying together, or laughing together. To be and act together, in the midst of whatever the moment brings.

I've been trying to remind myself of this the first thing I wake up, inspired by something my young son does. He sleeps right next our bed. And every morning, just as he wakes up, he calls out quietly: "Da?" Just checking to make sure I'm there. Because that's what's important to him. I realize that's how I want to start each day also.