There You Are

One of the most vivid sermons I ever encountered is one I never heard. Because I attended a Christian college, we were required to attend chapel each week, but with that requirement also came the grace to skip an allotted number of services in allowance for life’s unexpected moments.

It was one of those days, and while I can’t exactly remember my reason for skipping chapel, I can pretty much guarantee it had something to do with my head being on my pillow. (The same reason I skipped several, and I mean several, 8 am Grammar and Syntax classes. Grammar is tough any time of the day but positively brutal at 8 am). But for this particular chapel that I missed, the message was entitled “There You Are,” and according to my friends, it was one of those sermons that was well worth hearing. The premise was basic, yet profound: are we a “Here I am” or a “There you are” person? In other words, do we walk through life expecting others to see, acknowledge and affirm us; or do we seek to make others the center of our attention? It’s the sermon I never heard but have never forgotten.

All of us want to know we exist for a reason. In my limited understanding of philosophy, to believe we exist without purpose has but one end—nihilism, or nothingness. Such a belief is not possible for the Christian. Though we may face times of discouragement and questioning—and we do--to believe we live without purpose is to deny the existence of the Cross.

As a teacher, I find the presence of existential thought in literature to be not only intriguing but evidence of God’s handprint in our making. A seemingly intimidating concept, existentialism basically revolves around man’s search for purpose and the infinite list of questions that every choleric personality puts away in a box marked “unsolvable” and every melancholy writes on the walls of her mind to ponder at any given moment. Wherever we look, however, we can see that the desire to live with purpose exists in the heart of every man and woman.

And that is the beauty of a “There You Are” sermon. A necessary reminder that we were created for something beyond ourselves, such a message tells us that God responds to us with a resounding “There you are,” and His love answers the deep questions of why we exist. Yet the very fact that we need a reminder to love Him with our entire being and to love others as we want to be loved tells us that our once perfect design has been marred by the dogma of self-centeredness.

In our desire to know our purpose, we must remember that without Christ, we can produce nothing pure or good (John 3:27). We can be successful, we can be philanthropic, we can be motivational. But only those seeds born in the hope found in Christ carry true life, and in the long run, the true measure of our works isn’t in the act but in the heart (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). We were created for purpose, but living with purpose and needing to see the effects (i.e. needing to experience recognition) of that purpose are two different things. Think of Peter’s admonition to the church that the perfection of their faith would come through what they would not see: “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you . . . “ (1 Peter 1:10-12a, emphasis added). The writer of Hebrews reiterates this idea by saying,” All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). It’s natural to want to see the results of our efforts—natural, but not the thing on which to base our choices. Scriptural truth isn’t ever circumstantial, and true purpose—if it’s found in Christ—is selfless.

Finding our purpose isn’t about what others see, acknowledge or affirm in us. Instead, it begins with a simple statement: “There you are . . .”


Post a Comment

Popular Posts