Purpose and Productivity

If you don’t read any further than this first paragraph, that is completely fine, because I believe it holds an important axiom on which we are to base our entire lives as believers. It is an all encapsulating, unshakeable truth, often wrapped in cliches and Christian platitudes, and mostly diluted to the point of seeming like an afterthought. And yet, if we stepped into it completely, even wore it like a rugged garment, meant to weather every season and circumstance we encounter throughout our lives, I believe it would change the very way we see ourselves and our place in the world. It is this: our lives have profound significance simply because we exist. Or put another way: God is extremely fond of us, and it is the only reason we are here.

As disciples of Christ, this should be basic knowledge. How often do we talk about God’s love, or sing, “Oh How He Loves Us,” or quote John 3:16 as a means of expressing God’s love to the world? But despite the fact that we may know this, I don’t think we truly own it. We may know it with our heads, but not within the depths of our soul.

Our culture places the value of a life on what people do. Most often, it is our vocation or our work that defines who we are, and ascribes us our value. “What do you do?” is typically among the most common questions asked in a first meeting between people, as a means of gauging where this new acquaintance fits into the world. Our value is in our productivity and our contributions, rather than simply in who we are as human beings. We feel it in the busyness of our overloaded schedules, and I believe we also feel it in our faith.

When we look at what God went through to reconcile His people, sending Jesus to take on all of the wrongdoing of humanity and die in our place, many of us believe we have to make it up to Him somehow.

We look at this incredible act of mercy, and see only a debt to be paid back, as if we have to show up everyday and prove that we deserved to be saved. And while we have been given many gifts and blessings by the God who loves us, and we should definitely do whatever we can to play our part in spreading that gospel of love to all, I think we often miss the point of our salvation. Galatians says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Do we feel the freedom of Christ, or are we slaves to the ideals of productivity and efficiency?

About two years ago, I was asked to sing at the memorial service of a four year old girl who had died of Leukemia. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I had met this little girl, who many affectionately called “Hunny Bunny,” at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, in the course of my work with the Songs for Kids Foundation. We had played songs for her many times during her various stays for treatment of her illness. She was a firecracker, lighting up a room with her smile and her dancing, even while attached to an IV pole. Her favorite song was, “Let It Go” from the movie, “Frozen,” and it was this song we sang at her graveside. What struck me most about this memorial service was in the way her family interacted with all who were there. There was a great deal of grief and mourning to be sure, but this family somehow seemed so grateful: grateful for all of those that had been part of her daughter’s life and the way they had supported the family, and grateful that they had even been given four short years with their beautiful little girl.

Some may look at her life with pity, and think what a waste it is to see someone die so young and spend so much of her short life sick in a hospital, hardly able to even begin to live or find her purpose. But Hunny Bunny made waves. Her strength and joy reverberated wherever she was, and her life made a profound impact on all those who knew her. She knew she was loved, and she simply lived it out despite her hardship. Was it tragic to watch her suffer and die at such a young age? Absolutely. And yet, watching her family go through it all gave me such a profound perspective on life itself. In the big picture, we are all here for such a short time. Don’t you want to live those years in freedom? Don’t you want your life to be marked by how much you loved others and allowed them to love you? Then we must embrace why we are truly here: because God loves us. He is deeply fond of us. He has great affection for us. And because of this, regardless of what we accomplish with our short time, our lives have profound significance.

Of course, we are given talents and time for a purpose. We have responsibilities and a role to play in God’s kingdom. And yet, so often, the scriptures speak of God asking us to be still.  To rest and to know that He is God. This undoubtedly reminds us that we are not. God needs for nothing. He allows us to partner with Him in His work, and if it is His love and not our productivity that defines our very existence, we can find deeper freedom and joy as we live into our vocations. And sharing that deep sense of love and belonging with others, through our work, and through our relationships is what will show the truth of the gospel to the world. May we live into our truest, deepest identity as the beloved people of God and allow it to transform and restore our weary world.