Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Reflection: Gazing At Gravestones And Living On Purpose

Over the last few weeks, I've had a number of occasions that have led me to take stock of my life, my legacy, and to consider my purpose during my limited time on earth. In the last week alone, have watched from afar as a close friend said goodbye to her mother, read as people were murdered by car bombs, stood-by shocked as floods overtook the homes of individuals in the southern part of my home state of West Virginia. And this past Sunday, I attended Horizons Church in Salem, WV with my wife and her parents.

Each time I visit that church, I try to take a moment and gaze up the hill behind the church and look at the tombstones representing generations past. Actually, every time I pass by a cemetery when I am on foot, I find myself doing this same exercise. I take in the whole of the cemetery, or I focus in on a few of the tombstones. I try to go back in my mind to consider the lives of those represented. Did they have family and friends gather about their grave after they had breathed their last? Do people still visit their final resting places today in remembrance of their life. What were they living for? What principles did they carry forth in their lives? What were their great triumphs and tragedies?What were their dreams?

And then after considering those lives, I strive to take a few moments to think about my own life, and purpose. It's a bit of a gut-check for me to think about my own mortality, and what I want to be true of my life when I breathe my last and see my Creator face-to-face. I know it can sound a bit morbid or gruesome, but there's something sobering and rejuvenating in this process for me. As King David wrote in the Psalms, "Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!" Our lives are temporal. Even Reebok, in this recent commercial encourages us to "Honor the body we have been given" as we consider the brevity of days we have on this earth

This time as I looked at the cemetery and took a quick photo, I found myself considering the ways we can both individually and collectively slip into a life of self-indulgent comfort and ease. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world."

I believe each one of us were made for a unique God-honoring purpose, and there is something deeply fulfilling as we discover that purpose, and live passionately out of that purpose. Each of us has a one-of-a-kind contribution to make to the world, and I believe part of the path toward our contribution demands a surrender of comfort and ease for the sake of service to others. Our purpose tends to call to us sometimes softly and other times loudly to step out of our lethargy and "do the work" of becoming the best version of ourselves for the glory of God and the betterment of humanity.

For me, that purpose inspires me to rise daily and to put forth effort to be physically and mentally strong so I can have something to offer to others from my body. It inspires me to pour time into the betterment of and care for others by helping others to be able to make meaningful choices for their future. And even as I write and consider that grand purpose, there's also the hard truth staring me in the face. Sometimes I like to sleep in. Sometimes I find myself wanting to pursue a life of ease. And that's why I'm grateful for the gut-check provided by gazing at a graveyard. One day, I will cease to live this life. I find it helpful in light of this to ask questions of myself like, "What kind of person am I becoming? What kind of person do I want to become?"

What about you? How do you stay mindful of your purpose, and how do you keep fanning the flame to keep moving forward? Whatever it is, my hope is that you and I are able to continue to develop routines in our lives that will help us bring our very best selves to this beautiful majestic world in a way that embodies honor, service, fierce courage, commitment, and tenacious faith. To do anything else is to shrink away from a strong call of duty and a wonderful legacy.

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