Nicolae Tanase: Pastor Mark, what is the meaning of life?
Pastor Mark Johnston: For many years I asked myself that question, relentlessly and in myriad ways; certain there must be some logical answer that, once discovered, could become my focus and end my fretting.
Gradually I’ve discovered that the meaning of life is found in the letting go of it. What I mean by that is that whenever I fixate upon retaining some part of my life, or adding to some part of my life, or improving some part of my life – applying even the most herculean of efforts – I inevitably end up frustrated. Distracted from the art of truly living.
But whenever I take life as it is and, as its handed to me, let go of it for the sake of others… I inevitably end up fulfilled. Deepened in the art of truly living.
I think you know this is true for you as well; that it’s true for all of us. We begin to die the second we struggle misguidedly to survive. The second we become obsessed with fighting for our own way, our own stuff, our own agenda, our own point, or our own “needs” (not legitimate human needs to be fought for to benefit those who cannot themselves fight, but pettier aspirations merely disguised as needs), what we are engaged in is something far less than actually living.
But we begin to live the second we become willing to die; the second we give up trying to tweak our way to a more meaningful life and wholeheartedly abandon ourselves to God and others.
Living like this is deeply freeing, because it means I can quit imagining that there are special ingredients to be sought after that, sprinkled fortuitously upon my existence, would somehow make it taste sweeter than it already can. It means I can quit fantasizing about how much better my life would be if all the bitter experiences were culled from it.
It means I can simply see my life – all of it – as a gift I’ve been given to give back.
You were given a life for one reason: to spend the rest of it letting go of it. Loving. Forgiving. Serving. Believing. Giving. Trusting.
For me, this points back to the words of Jesus – who said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” (Luke 17:33).
That’s the meaning of life: to let go of it, and in doing so, finally find it.
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