Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Searching for a Meaningful Life....Or Living a Meaningful Life

The holidays are usually a time to catch up with old friends. This year was no exception.  There are always conversations that start with: “How is _____ doing? What is going on in their life?” During the course of one of those interchanges a friend of mine described some mutual acquaintances in the following manner: They seem restless. They are probing for something. They spend a lot of time going to self-help conferences…They are searching for meaning and for some reason it remains elusive.

As I drove home, I thought about his comments.  Why is the search for meaning turning up so many dead ends for our mutual friends?  He described individuals that I know to be educated, successful and affluent. They appear to be happily married and have raised children that have the same potential to be educated, successful and affluent. As I mulled over this philosophical puzzle, another conversation that took place over the same meal popped in my head.

My friend also asked about Jan’s parents.  We told him about their latest adventures retirement adventures. He in turn reminded us that Jan’s mother had sent him numerous cards that contained very kind personal notes when he was recovering from a serious accident.  Sending such handwritten comments in the mail was not an isolated incident. She sent them repeatedly during the course of his recuperation.  Her thoughts were heartfelt, thoughtful, and encouraging.

It took me a few moments, but I finally put the content of the two conversations together.  During part of our time of together he described two people that are relentlessly searching for meaning.  They are restless, unsettled, and I suppose unfulfilled in life. They are looking for something that they have yet to discover. And then he in turn he described someone to me who simply lives a meaningful life.

Jan’s mother has a high school education. She has lived in the same house for over 52 years. And she has lived within in the same rural area all of her life. I don’t know if she has ever attended a Christian conference or any kind of self help seminar. She has spent her life loving God and other people. I should actually clarify that. She has spent her life loving God and other people in tangible ways.  Members of her extended family have always called her through the years to share their problems, because she listens. She has written hundreds of kind letters and notes to people struggling with life.  She is genuinely interested in the concerns of other people. Her life has never been cluttered by excess materialism or vain pursuits of any kind.  She has lived a meaningful life.

Are you restless?  Do you feel like there is something that you are missing in life? Is there an emptiness that refuses to be filled?  Perhaps a starting place is the discipline of simplicity. Shed the unnecessary baggage and get back to the basics of loving God and other people in tangible ways.  I am fearful that conferences that are supposedly promoting Christian values in reality are fueling the narcissism of our age. Let’s be alert to those around us that are in immediate need and do something meaningful on their behalf.  Let’s stop searching for meaning and just live a meaningful life. 

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