One of my favorite parts of the UCC (United Church of Christ) Statement of Faith is the part where it says that God "seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin."
That word "aimlessness" made me stop and think for a moment. The word doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible -- at least not the King James Version. Yet, thinking about it, it has always seemed right to me. Lives that have been touched by God are, in fact, not aimless. They are full of purpose.
It seems to me that one way of being aimless is to allow ourselves to be distracted by the worries and obsessions that seem to make the world go round.
For instance, I was poking around on Facebook and ran across a link to a YouTube video featuring members of the Westboro Baptist Church explaining why God hates fags. Then I ran across a quote from that guy who vowed to fast until gay marriage was stopped in Utah. That after reading a series of email correspondence expressing concern about growing support for reparative therapy in certain religious circles. And the recent passage of a series of oppressive anti-gay laws in Nigeria. And on. And on.
The facts in themselves may or may not be distressing (depending on your point of view). What is more distressing to me is the tone of voice in which such tales tend to be recounted -- especially in social media. Usually indignant, annoyed, worried or mocking. Often with a rallying cry to "do something!" or to "make your views known!"
It's easy to get caught in the miasma of angst, especially when the stench gets equally pungent on both sides of any given controversy. I don't agree with Trestin Meacham's view of things, for instance, but I guess he must be pretty upset and scared. I'm not sure what else to make of his behavior or his statements. (Assuming I don't just dismiss him as attention hungry... Though hunger for attention seems to drive a lot of media.)
To me, aimlessness would include letting myself get drawn into these brawls. It would include taking the insults and the assaults personally or letting them worry me.
To me, a purposeful life involves listening first to the "still, small voice." A purposeful life begins with prayer, which leads to knowing who we are and what we need to be about. And then staying focused on that.
I'm not saying we need to be unconcerned about hate groups, or political conflict, or misinformation, or injustice or violence. We live in a broken world, so purposeful lives will very much be about devoting ourselves to making that broken world a better place. But our devotion will be more likely to have an impact if in emerges from deeper, more grounded, more thoughtful selves; from the self-knowledge that comes through listening.
When I listen, things come into focus: my husband, our family, our
neighbors, my students my church. The people whose lives cross with
ours. Taking care of each other.