Friday, March 25, 2011

Lent Day 15: Looking here and there

Julia Roberts stars in Eat, Love, Pray, a Western woman's attempt to make sense of her chaos and failures at marriage, love, life, and self by immersing herself in travel, food, relationships, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  By the end of the movie, she has taken the "let go" advice of people who are similarly adrift, and is drifting into another "loving" relationship with a nice guy with a history of broken marriage. The credits roll, leaving the viewer wondering how long this go-around will last.

I watched it last night with amazement at the statement of the movie: life is without meaning. Just do the best you can and temporarily you will find love and happiness. There's just the here-and-now, until it happens again.

The attempt to "find myself" and "know my purpose" pulls humans into many quests and ambitions. But how can such an important search be successful without an origin, without knowing who made us and why? Security and meaning must begin with the assurance that humanity's Creator knows us, is pleased with us as a person, and satisfies our need for community. (Cartoon:

How sad when the search begins and ends with "maybe this time around," or "oh well, put the bad things out of my mind and hope this works..." Optimism and disillusionment, time after time. 

Entire religions are built around a humanity's suffering and attempts to endure the meaninglessness of life without a relationship to a personal, loving God. Buddhist, Hindu, and New Age religions add to human emptiness with the resignation of supposing another chance to redo life if this one is lousy. Emptiness becomes a goal, so suffering will be bearable. Who cares if this life doesn't feel right and I've treated others disrespectfully or unkindly? If I'm hurting, I have to grim and bear it the best I can. Zone out. Refuse the pain. Maybe in the next life I will take a better crack at happiness.

Jesus had an entirely different life to offer. "Abundant life," he said to his followers. "I've come to bring life, and that more abundantly." Don't shrug off the pain. "Bring it to me, all the weariness, sorrow, and suffering, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." He promised freedom and openness to creativity and goodness when we yoke our lives with his.

It's easy to distract ourselves with useless searches and the futility of human religions. Paul said our non-conformity to the world included leaving behind worldly solutions. embracing embrace God's abundance and renewal: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:1) Then, and only then, we can know the perfect, acceptable, and satisfying purpose for which we were born, live, both here on earth and after death.

Are we still trying to find our own way? Hoping this time we do better, will be more loved and loving, or acquire more goods and power?

"A train can only function as a train on the rails," my husband told his students this week. "Without tracks, you only have wreckage, random carriages, and no possibility of getting to the next station."

A train without guiding rails sounds like the characters in the movie I watched yesterday... past wreckage, more hurt to come, and missing the abundance and joy of being fully human. No matter how beautiful the cinematography or sentimental the story, it's awful watching people running here and there, picking up when "it doesn't feel right," and leaving brokenness and confusion in their wake. They can never rest secure in love or loving in the safehaven of one spouse and a close-knit, trustworthy family, as designed by a Heavenly Father.

I'm cracking open the instruction manual (my Bible) again today, to see where the tracks and rails God made us to ride lead.

Read more: 
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

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