“Our dream of life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes. And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing. But that cannot be true. I can’t believe we will forget our sorrows altogether. That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking. Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
I’ve been thinking rather big picture these days. I’ve been thinking about how insignificant so many of our daily struggles, dramas, and sorrows are. In the grand scheme of things, I mean.
What is my purpose on earth? It is surely not to clamor around in self-pity, or complain about annoying cell phone charges. My great offering to the world is probably not that I woke up in a bad mood and/or spent the better part of my days fretting about money and the weather. My great offering most likely has little to do with “me” in the strictest sense.
I’ve also been thinking about the church. In America, there are churches in every city, churches of every kind for whatever preference imaginable. And for the most part they’re all so isolated from one another, so insular and self-obsessed and less concerned about being THE church for the world than being A church for itself. But while we are all busying ourselves in our insular little churches with AWANA and gossip and meat markets and hurt feelings and worship wars, what is happening in the world outside our doors?
The “small stuff” like this, I think, has a tendency to command the majority of our attention and distract us from the bigger picture. But our lives, ultimately, are not about the small stuff. They’re not even really about us—only insofar as “us” refers to Christ working through us.
And yet we live in the most narcissistic age in history. It’s all about us.
Technology is aggravating this problem. I wrote an article in the most recent Relevant magazine entitled “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter,” and it’s sparking some pretty interesting discussions. The title probably gives you an idea as to what my point was. Twitter, Facebook, blogging (yes, I’m speaking self-reflexively here) are all potential hazards to our conflating narcissism, to our tendency to view our selves as dramatic, interesting, and important characters in some play that should be seen by the masses.
We are important, of course, but not in the sense that we think we are. We are important because we were created to serve a purpose, a divine and magnificent purpose that goes way beyond what we think is so great about who we are and what we can offer.
Which brings me back to my first point. I initially said that the minutia of our daily lives was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Well, this is not completely accurate. Everything in our lives is important, and happens for a reason. As a good Calvinist, I thoroughly and aggressively believe this. What I mean to say is that, while the “small stuff” is important and serves a purpose, it should not consume our energies and distract us from the fact that we are gloriously in existence for something other than ourselves.
We all have struggles. Terrible pains. Jobs, relationships, illnesses, dishes, laundry, car repairs, and so on. But I’m convinced that the weight and burden of all of this becomes quite a bit lighter when you recognize that God is in control, that he has plans and purposes for you, that you and your sorrows are an important piece in a massive puzzle full of billions of pieces that are gradually being fit together for a goodness and glory that would and will blind us if ever we are to see it in full.