“You may ask yourself: How did I get here?” “Same as it ever was!” (An old favorite)
SSDD! You know, “same stuff, different day.” That’s the way a buddy of mine would answer as we started our workday at a factory where I worked after school in my teenage years. He had been with this company for many years and had had the same job in the factory refurbishing water meters. His job was a series of movements that never changed and always had the same results. In other words, it was monotonous work. Same stuff, different day.
We can start feeling like this in our everyday lives after a while. And, sometimes this is comforting. We know what to expect. There are no surprises and there is a sense of safety. But, most of the time we can find this kind of life boring and unfulfilling.
What’s the balance between being dependable and being free from the dangerous boredom of mediocrity and no growth?
The answer is knowing the central purpose of your life. Most every guru or self-help author or consultant or even religious leaders has some answer to this question for your life, and most people realize that their need for purpose is central to their experiencing a fulfilling and happy life. That much we know.
Where things break down is when we settle on a purpose too small for the dignity of our person. We miss the real purpose for our lives by aiming too low!
This is where the power of faith trumps all other paths to purpose. And it’s why our theology, far from being reduced to some personal opinion or some narcissistic notion of “This is what’s true for me,” is absolutely vital to expanding our understanding of our potential and our purpose, both as a person, and as a creation. Too small theology = too small a purpose! And that ain’t good!
Listen to our Scripture Lesson today in Isaiah 14:24-32:
The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains trample him under foot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.” This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? In the year that King Ahaz died came this oracle: “Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod which smote you is broken, for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying serpent. And the first-born of the poor will feed, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant I will slay. Wail, O gate; cry, O city; melt in fear, O Philistia, all of you! For smoke comes out of the north, and there is no straggler in his ranks.” What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The LORD has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
God is speaking through His prophet, Isaiah to tell the beleaguered people of Israel that He has not forgotten them nor has He given up on His promises to them. He also warns the surrounding nations that He isn’t going to ignore their behavior either. God’s first declaration in the very first verse of this passage gives us a hint in just how a big enough theology creates a significant purpose. The Lord declares: “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…” Isaiah 14:24.
The labor to understand your own purpose and even the purpose of creation, starts with your vision of God. If your vision of God is of a dotting old grandfather figure who is just there to make you feel better, then know your idea of your purpose will never mature to its proper place. If your idea of God is one of a distant and angry deity, then know your purpose will never mature beyond either your rejection of Him or your need to constantly try to appease Him. You will never truly love a god you are sure is easily offended or so easily manipulated by your own behaviors. In both of these scenarios of god, notice please, that you are actually in control of the dotting old grandfather AND the angry deity. You are actually the center of attention and god is the one who has to be taken care of to either get what you want or keep him happy.
And that simply is too small a god to ever discover your real purpose!
But Isaiah paints a picture of God that declares this God sees everything that’s happening. This God knows the end from the beginning. This God doesn’t forget His promises and His plans and He has every intention of fulfilling both. This God is not fickle or easily manipulated. This God doesn’t need appeasement nor is He in need of flattery.
So, the key to knowing your purpose and actually becoming what you were intended to become lies in your willingness to make sure you don’t settle on a picture of God that is too small. The more accurate your vision of God, the more profound and fulfilling your purpose will be.
Today, we stand at the very edge of a great feast of the Church. Here, in the middle of Great Lent; in the middle of our serious and purposeful spiritual labor to remind even our eating habits just how big our God is, the Church calls us to remember God keeping His promises by His sending His Son to become obedient unto death, even death on a Cross (see Philippians 2:8). Yesterday we watched as the Cross of our Lord was processed through our communities, and we are called to always remember just how serious our God is in keeping His promises and loving us! God keeps His promises. God is trustworthy. God is going to accomplish His purposes for His creation. Now the only issue to be settled is will we be humble enough, wise enough, courageous enough to participate in His purposes, to be Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. Sunday we have a new Faith Encouraged LIVE program. I confess to coming to really look forward to these times we can get together and talk about the beauties of our Orthodox faith. Would you do me a kindness and invite someone else to listen with you this coming Sunday? It’s at AncientFaith.com at 8 PM this Sunday night!