And so it is that I find myself sitting across from her—me on a bar stool, her at the head of the table. Morning sun struggles to make its way through heavy cumulous clouds that intermittently spit rain. The air, still heavy with humidity despite this occasional leak of moisture. I hope it will be a sunny day, in light of the day’s scheduled events soon to transpire. We have some serious swimming to do. But we Two are not preoccupied with the day’s weather or activities in this moment; instead, finding ourselves discussing the book “Love, Anthony” (which I have recently finished but am still pondering) all while I down the last of a glass of orange juice at 10:30 in the morning. She drinks her coffee. And somehow book talk gets shifted over to life talk and it is without warning that tears fall. And there it is: that question of purpose.
Why are we here, anyway?
What is the purpose for the life we have been given?
While thoughtful discussion continues and we try to come to some conclusions that will comfort broken hearts and shattered dreams, my thoughts drift back again to that all-consuming question. Do we ever really know? What is our purpose, anyway?
Depending on what angle from which one might be seeking, there are so many thoughts contributing to answers for this one question. As true believers in an eternal God, our purpose and ‘reason for being’ is dedicated to living spiritually, with eternity’s values in view. What is lasting and permanent? Those are the treasures we must seek. What will remain? This is where to place one’s focus. But again, as true believers, our life must not be so separate from worldly concerns that we live with our heads in the clouds. We have been called to act justly, love mercifully and walk humbly while traversing life’s passageways. Our duty is to care for one another in grateful service, primarily preferring others’ interests over our own. To compassionately care for one another, supporting each others in both times of great need as well as in times of ease and pleasure. This is our calling and purpose.
Is this, then, all of it in its entirety?
She tells me about a friend who daily visits her husband at the manor. But not making time to care for him only. On her way to his room, she stops by many others’ stations and lounging areas first so as to cheer and comfort the vulnerable. So as to bolster those who need the encouragement. Her own dear one often unaware of her presence, but these others: they look for her. She has found a purpose in the messy complicated that life offers her. A purpose that transcends time and place, circumstance and sorrow.
What is the purpose in their suffering? In his (her Husband)? In hers (the wife)?
I believe the answer lies somewhere in acceptance first, followed by an act of embracing. When we accept, we resist fighting what we cannot conquer, choosing instead to acknowledge that our lives are always lived with limitations and boundaries. These bodies never created for permanence in this life. And yet the ways in which we choose to endure bodily limitations here will have a tremendous impact on the longevity of our soul’s endurance in the everafter. We can never fully understand why things happen as they do, but we can accept that there is a purpose for every event under the sun. We might never fully comprehend why a life must be lived a certain way, but this does not diminish the value of that life, does not diminish the purpose. Does not limit the living that life was meant for. Living cannot be measured. The breath we have been given is of value, and the life that lies therein deserving of the opportunity.
The intention of life inherent in the spark that feeds the soul. Life is precious. It is also purposeful.
If then the purpose of suffering is to accept and embrace, what is the purpose of joy?
When we accept that there are things within our lives we cannot change, choosing to embrace the life we have been given in spite of the obstacles, true joy is acquired in the process. Joy is not something easily obtained: it must be long sought after and yearned for. True joy surpasses sorrow in that it willingly chooses to embrace the ugly, the bitter, the vile, the downright disgusting— so as to savour the sweet aftertaste that follows the initial struggle to ingest. It is never easy to accept pain and sorrow, but we willingly and eagerly clamour for joy. Such sweet medicine to remedy our pain.
Both are part and parcel of the same. Joy is the flip side of the coin. It is the accompanying face of pain. There is always something brighter waiting for us just beyond the bend.
In the book “Love, Anthony”, the author allows us a glimpse into a child’s soul. There is much pain and sorrow in the story, but little of this is felt by the main protagonist, Anthony, despite his struggles that ultimately lead to an unexpected demise. Instead of focusing on the negative that surrounds his life, this child chooses to experience the joy that he knows is all around him. He chooses pure, unadulterated bliss.
He chooses to be. Be accepting. Be loved. Be happy. Be Anthony.
What then is our purpose—yours and mine?
We will find answers when we look beyond ourselves, past our innate fragility. Choosing rather to see the light that always shines brightest when it is just beyond our grasp. Our purpose is defined by our living. And our lives are defined by the ways in which we embrace the little graces that light our path.
One simple moment at a time.