Why am I here?
In M. Night Shymalan’s thriller, Unbreakable, two characters try to make sense of their lives. The fragile Elijah Price suffers from a genetic disorder that makes his bones brittle. His new friend David Dunn is on the opposite end of the spectrum, discovering a strength he never knew was there. When the two finally discover one another’s true identity, Elijah says, “Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world, to not know why you’re here.”
The long search
People have been searching for purpose and meaning in life for a long time. And, this search may have grown more difficult in our technologically advanced society. Ironically, people are more connected than ever, but struggle to form and maintain deep, meaningful relationships. We live in an affluent society that focuses our attention on diversion and distraction in the form of sports, entertainment, travel, gadgets and toys. We are told to spare no cost in serving ourselves with more and more luxury, even as our brothers and sisters at home and abroad struggle to find decent water, a place to live or a morsel to eat.
This economic materialism partners all too well with a scientific materialism that promotes the idea that there is no divine purpose to life, that there is only matter and that our lives have no meaning apart from what we construct ourselves. This philosophy says that everything we see and experience for ourselves—indeed our very being—is nothing more than random molecular chance and the result of purposeless forces of nature.
While many publicly celebrate this breaking free of our “God-complex,” others have encountered an increasingly disturbed and savage world. Anxiety, fear, loneliness, depression, disease, heartache and despair grow without a deep sense of purpose anchored to our true identity.
Yet, there is hope. Brushfires is part of a movement working to rebuild a sense of identity, community and authentic relationship. We believe that underneath the selfish, brutal, violent tendencies displayed throughout culture is a deep hunger for meaning. Far from overcoming our need for God, these distortions spotlight our desperate existence without Him.
Love is all you need
A popular boy band of the 1960s once sang that, “All you need is love.” What is love? is a serious question and not easily answered today with so many competing notions of love out there.
If we take God’s love as our model — sacrificial, faithful, pure, patient and lasting — we have an authentic vision of life that stands in stark contrast to a culture that persistently pushes people to take from others. The selfish cultural narrative fails to satisfy precisely because it violates our true calling. We were not created to be the isolated individuals we all too often feel like. We were made — body, mind and spirit — to be a gift for one another. Our highest calling is to love as God loves, by pouring ourselves out for others.
Pope John Paul II wrote that the opposite of love is not hate but lust. For, love gives itself up for another while lust takes from another to serve one’s self. Perhaps, looking for self-giving and sacrifice is the quickest and easiest way to distinguish authentic love from cheap knock-offs.
As you search for that ultimate purpose to your life, we would like to suggest that it is intimately connected to learning to love in the image of God.
“Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
Gaudium et Spes, 24
Agony in the Garden
by Peter Coeck van Aelst, 1527-1530