A Life Worth Living: Finding the Time to Find a Purpose

January 22, 2015

Leo’s grilled chicken has made many a day of mine. So has my International Finance professor.

He’s one of those professors who initially seems to straddle the line between trying too hard to be liked and being a genuinely likable character, but as the semester progresses, you realize he’s the latter. Last week, he sent my class an email, in which he included a quote from Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” It’s a pretty good saying, and one that is quite applicable in the busyness of student life as a Hoya.

Between classes, homework, and clubs, I find it difficult to remember the “why” of my life. Honestly, I’m not even that involved in activities on campus – at least not by “Georgetown standards.” Even so, I often feel caught up in a whirlwind of an ever-growing to-do list, including readings I never got to.

At such an important juncture, it is of utmost importance to take time to evaluate your life. This may go against the instinct of “go go go” that defines  the Georgetown experience, but a lesson I have learned is that rest begets productivity. One of the jewels of Georgetown’s Jesuit identity that I will take with me far beyond graduation is reflection and mindfulness. Reflecting using thoughtful observations, questions, and answers is what sorts through everything that is thrown at you during college and helps you make sense of, learn from, and take from this unique time of life. This applies to both our studies and our lives in general.

While reflecting, a useful question to ask is, “why am I doing all of this?” A more common, and scarier-sounding, form of the same inquiry is,  “what’s the purpose of life?” I’ll even go so far as to say that this is an essential question that we must all ask ourselves.

The answer to this question is one that you may or may not find during college. However, there are interim answers, such as money, success, stability, happiness, and making the world a better place. I believe that Socrates was referring to this type of self-reflection when speaking of examining one’s life.

Now, I’m going to break with Socrates, and go a step further. We must deal with what we discover at the end of our examination if we are each to live meaningful and purposeful existences. If, at the end of our examination, we realize that the purpose of our lives are not worth dedicating our lives to, we must embark on a journey to find purposes that are worthy of our lives. For me, a purpose that is worth living for is one that is of the highest value, outlasts my own life in terms of time and impact, and narrates a story far greater than my own.

As a Christian, I have discovered this purpose to be bringing glory to God. To put it in the terms of Georgetown’s Jesuit identity: ad maiorem Dei gloriam. God’s glory is the most valuable thing in the universe and beyond. He, the Creator, is eternal, and is not bound by time. He has a good and guaranteed plan in place to bring glory to himself, which will eventually manifest as a kingdom in which there will no longer be any selfishness, greed, injustice, etc. His story is one in which sinners like you and me, who have offended this morally perfect God, can be adopted as his children. The price paid for this adoption was the death of Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus have to die? Death is the required payment for sin, and Jesus paid it despite being perfect so that sinners could have relationships with God upon repentance. Why would anyone want a personal relationship with this God? He is perfectly good, sovereignly just, intensely loving, and infinitely patient. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead after three days, so that those who turn from their sins and believe in him can also have life after death. That is, a relationship with God begins upon conversion in this life and continues in the next. His story is a beautiful one of his perfect love, justice, and mercy.

As such, the glory of God meets the criteria of a purpose worth living for. I even claim that God’s glory is the only purpose worth living for. This may be offensive to you, as it once was to me. However, I encourage you to at least strongly consider the glory of God as a purpose to which you can dedicate yourself upon examining your life. A good place to begin is by reading the book of John in the Bible, or even talking to a Christian acquaintance. I write to you as someone left entirely unsatisfied by pursuits of success, approval, and happiness. While not “evil” in and of themselves, they do not suffice as the purpose of life.

May this semester be one of discovery and exploration. Remember, dear friend, your life is a precious one. Dedicate it to a valuable purpose.

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Bob Jolly

As I was doing some research for preaching, I stumbled across your post. Well written. I commend you for being a witness on your campus.