The starting gun went off this week. As much as we celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1, the reality for most of us is that the new season begins the Tuesday after Labour Day.
Early Tuesday morning, I found myself sitting at my desk haunted by a question I couldn’t shake.
“What will I accomplish this year that has ultimate meaning?”
Adding complexity to the question was the fact that I am in the process of reading a book that questions the measuring sticks typically used to answer it. The author
insightfully argues that meaningful lives rarely seem tied to things that are visible. Our usual measuring sticks of success often leave us hollow and empty. Meaningful living, he contends, occurs at a much different place. It occurs at the soul level.
Further complicating my thoughts is the reality that I currently find myself navigating “The Gap.”
On one side I am attempting to assist my 97-year-old dad, Peter, to finish well. On the other side I am attempting to help launch my three-month-old grandson, Peter, to start well. Somewhere in the middle, I find myself attempting to make sense of it all and to live as if I do.
I apologize if this column appears to be little more than personal therapy, but cannot help but wonder if my desire to get beyond superficial success and live a deeply meaningful year isn’t shared by you.
To quote Gordon MacDonald, “My sense is that a large part of our Western world knows or cares little about the inner part of life that is called the soul, the spirit, or the heart.”
We seem pre-occupied with defining life by accomplishments, activities and accumulations. Yet, when the light turns off at night and we are left alone with ourselves and our thoughts we often long for a different yardstick.
Well-known academic, priest and author Henri Nouwen wrote that he came to a place where he felt his success was putting his soul in danger. So, he left Harvard and went to serve as a priest at L’Arche Daybreak, a residence for adults with intellectual challenges.
Even if his new community members at L’Arche had known he wrote books, they likely wouldn’t have been able to read or appreciate them. His sense worth had nothing to do with the height of his success or the breadth of his achievements.
The residents at L’Arche had one overwhelming desire, they wanted him present. Nouwen would often say that it didn't matter that he had written books or taught at Yale and Harvard. It mattered that he was going to be home for dinner.
The gold nugget in his experience is that he had to discover and apply a new, richer and nobler criteria for evaluating his life.
As the starting gun reverberates through the first few days of this new season, I not only wonder if it’ll be a successful season, I also wonder if I’ll use a deeply meaningful yardstick to measure it.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church.