Yesterday at my physical therapy appointment, somehow we got to talking about the meaning of life – what makes a life meaningful?
I’m sorry to say that I didn’t contribute anything to my PT’s secular humanist view. He gave me a huge opening; knowing that I’m a Christian, he mentioned that his perception of church was to give people a framework for making decisions in life. I let that go at the time, but here’s what I wish I had said.
Life is about relationships. God’s design, evinced through millions of years of human evolution, is for people to love, live, and work together. Individually, humans would have perished long ago. But through relational connections, we build each other up and thrive.
God is love, and He isn’t narcissistic; His love reaches out in relationships to everyone. As creatures whose souls are reflections of God’s, we too are made to love others, both God and fellow people. Life is meaningless if we don’t love, or if we seek only our own happiness. Our lives gain meaning as we reach out to help those in need, lend a listening ear, laugh and cry together.
This is Biblical: In one instance, in Ecclesiastes, the Teacher wrote that he had tried everything the world has to offer, and he found it meaningless, chasing after the wind. The only value is in knowing God, though His word and through His creation, especially people.
Science actually backs this up, too. In Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina describes a long-term study seeking to answer the question, “What causes happiness?” After following subjects from 1937 onward, researchers found one single factor dominantly contributed to subjects’ happiness: “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” Wow. Income, status, power – all far less meaningful than our relationships.
Having kids, building that relationship and teaching them to relate with others; investing not in the stock market but in time with other human beings; coming to know God, the ultimate source and model for all relationships; -this is what life is about. Not stuff, not money, not power, not any other worldly measure of success, but loving others. It’s what we’re made for and what we do best. That is the meaning of life, and that is why I go to church.
…Either that, or it’s 42.