“A man can endure any what as long as he knows the why.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
My sophomore year of college I enrolled in linear algebra, an ominous but necessary class to fulfill my intended math major.
Two years later, I graduated with a degree in Spanish and Economics. The linear algebra helped me make the change. Regardless, I remember the class. I remember the three-hour exams that consisted of only two problems. I remember endless computations utilizing theorems, equations and rules. I remember the indescribable sense of victory that I extracted from completing just one of these questions. I remember looking at a graded test with utter disappointment when three pages of correctly executed equations led to an incorrect solution. I started with the wrong initial value.
Purpose is where we begin. It serves as the initial value that guides the equations of our lives. It imparts meaning and significance. It is the basis, the value in lowest terms, the origin of significance. It exists as a mystery in its simplicity, so simple to state yet so much more complex to live.
We can state the “how,” but we continually strive to decipher the “why.” The “why” exists as the journey, and as Homer acknowledged, “The journey is the thing.” Knowing true purpose serves as the solid base from which to pursue life; a skewed knowledge of this leads only to further misdirection. It is futile to pursue the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons.
What is our purpose?
The obvious, easily packaged purpose: to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Yet the mysterious question of “how” persists. We embark on a lifelong journey with this acceptance of paradox. Do we abandon the journey when the pathway seems shrouded, and the direction dark and dim? Or do we trust? Wendell Berry challenged us to “ask the questions that have no answers.”
We didn’t attempt calculus or linear algebra when we entered elementary school. We learned addition. And then subtraction, followed by multiplication, division, fractions and so on. Our ability grows as our knowledge increases.
Our understanding of purpose reveals itself in broader scope as we live life and love the Lord. If we derive our purpose from the Lord and devote ourselves to living in and for his love, the “how” of purpose reveals itself.
What is the basis of my knowledge of purpose?
How do I react to the unknown in my life?
What is my purpose?
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