A leisurely indulgence in the luxury of existential angst… with Sudden Realizations for a conclusion

Chalk it up to my two score years of age, or the current “regular season” of life I’m in, or, as Styx sang over the synthesizer, I’ve got “too much time on my hands.” Whatever the reason, I’ve been really indulging lately, in my head anyway, on existential matters.

At any rate, I find myself pondering the usual mid-life queries:

  • Am I wasting my life? I don’t think so, but I’d like a little evidence, please, that I’m not. A clean kitchen, or lots of activity on my stupid Facebook page, or a small buffer in the bank account, or a satisfying row of check marks on a to-do list…they’re circumstantial evidence, at best.
  • Am I maximizing my gifts, or squandering them, or using them just barely enough to be recognizable? Is there some way or means to utilize them more effectively, that is, without burning the midnight oil to the bottom of the lamp? I do not even know.
  • Am I pouring into the one thing that matters? (That would be PEOPLE, by the way, if you needed a reminder. Most of us do. Daily.) I’m reminded of a phrase Steve used at church Sunday: silly amusements versus rich investments.
  • Am I making the most of my time with my children? A classic parental plea. The sociologists and well-meaning bloggers and (male) preachers on Mother’s Day all seem to have plenty of clean answers, but really no one but Jesus can answer that question truthfully. Not even the Mama.
  • Where on earth am I headed? On the same hamster wheel as everyone else, hanging on till the weekend, or the next vacation, the next paycheck, the next football season, the next work deadline, the next birthday party? Or am I reaching for some worthy goal? I’m not alone in this one: “Show me, O Lord… the number of my days” (Psalm 39:4).
  • Am I more like Jesus now than I was 10 years ago? Five? One? Oh Jesus let the answer be yes. But I’m afraid the answer is more, “Well. Some days yes. Some days, not so much. Some days, dear God what happened??” I would just like some assurance the overall direction of the curve is upward.

And these are good questions. I’m glad I’m asking them, thinking about them, stewing in/over them, praying about/through them. I do think the world would be a nicer place (well, it’d at least be quieter!) if more of us would give more thought to more questions like these more often. Maybe it would slow down the hamster wheel a little bit if we collectively practiced more contemplation and less scurrying. In fact I’m pretty sure of it.

But these musings are “nothing new under the sun.” I get it: I’m 40, I’m a (primarily) stay-at-home Mom, my oldest is on the verge of kindergarten (gasp), I’m supposed to be navel-gazing.

I just want to say that I recognize what a luxury it is.                          Image

That is, most of the world doesn’t have a chance to think about these things.

And I’m not just referring the nameless, faceless “2.6 billion who live on less than $2/day.” I mean the people all over my suburban slice of paradise. I mean the maids and certified nursing assistants and Wal-Mart associates and day care workers and teacher’s aides and cleaning ladies and all those anonymous people who pick up my trash and clean public restrooms and hand me a bag of terrible food through a pick-up window.

They fall into bed at night bone tired, and their weary minds center around these questions instead:

  • How in God’s name am I going to pay the school fees?
  • How will I get to work tomorrow? I can’t miss another day, even though I have a temperature of 102 right now – no paid time off, and they’re laying people off left and right.
  • How I wish I could’ve taken that scholarship, not had to turn it down so I could get a job to support my sick Mama, who worked all those years for cash and can’t get a penny in Social Security now.
  • Where am I supposed to get the $948 to fix that piece o’ junk car?
  • Dear Jesus make this arthritis go away. You know I don’t have insurance.
  • How can my smart boy possibly go to college? I can’t even pay his application fee.
  • Why oh why did they close that free medical clinic??
  • Why, oh why, oh why does no one at that (store, restaurant, school, nursing home) ever look at me and call me by name? Am I invisible because I wear a uniform and a name tag?
  • Will I ever get out of this cycle?

And when I compare those two lists of questions, I am struck silent at the disparity between them. I am burdened with the injustice they reveal. Why should I have the luxury of searching for a life that thrives, when my fellow creature is simply trying to survive?

There are three things I know about this quandary:

1. Everyone deserves the chance to think about his or her life in meaningful ways. Jesus made us to live with purpose and meaning, and simply because of that, every person should have the opportunity to discover and pursue who Jesus made him or her to be.

2. As a person with vastly more power than I realize (because of the family, education, background, experience, and network the Lord has put in my life), I am called – no, not called, obligated – to do what I can to help others have exactly that opportunity. I’m beholden to those less (materially) fortunate, to help them realize their potential and pursue their giftings. In the process I reconcile like an ambassador – them to material sustainability and eventually a life that thrives, myself to the healing of service, both of us to one another as fellow sojourners, and then both of us to Jesus, who sustains, heals, and reconciles all things according to his Father’s will. We are all of us broken and needy, and Jesus is our healer, provider, and friend.

3. I’m probably wrong. Probably even the folks who fall into bed dead-tired from dead-end jobs have the same questions as me. Why wouldn’t they? The difference is I’ll stay awake another hour writing a useless blog post about it while they fall asleep.

I also suspect that if I want a meaningful, non-wasteful, “pour into what matters” kind of life like I say, I’ll get cracking on serving those who don’t get to indulge for hours at a time on life’s existential lint.

Published in: on August 20, 2013 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment