Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. – Matthew 25:40
What if I told you there was a guaranteed way to live a meaningful life? Guess what – there is! It’s listed directly above in the Bible quote: poor out your life for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned – and it is a guaranteed, promised, assurance from Jesus, the one who mastered of life, that it is worth your while.
But few of us are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to of our life on the “least of these.” We’re high on passion, low on resolution. I think this is partly due to the hyperactive need to record, and share, and capture everything on our phones. We share, we post, we propagate, we market (ourselves)! The Silicon Valley executives making money off of our self-marketing don’t have to pay the psychological damage of turning ourselves into brands, public icons, and influencers. But as we buy into their alluring promise of connection, respect, and admiration, we’re self-conditioning ourselves to miss out on the real meaning of our lives.
The follow through of humanizing every human being with real relationship, with real love, with real help, with real support, and with real presence in their lives requires the real time, real sacrifice, and real patience that is foreign to the world of digitized connection and self-branding.
This is obviously true in the area of friendship. We shouldn’t have to recapture the “better thing” that it is to spend time with real people in real time, even though our practices reveal our priorities. We spend a daily average of 5.4 hours on our phones (contrast that with the 4 minutes we average daily engaging in “social events” of any kind)!
But while this is true in the area of relationships, it’s also very true in the realm of real influence. Contrary to our natural desire for the stage, the lights, and the hype, influence is firstly about depth before it is about reach. Without a clear idea about how we want to impact those around us, we’ll go on adding to the noise without adding any real value to their lives. Not that reach is unimportant. It’s simply secondary. This sort of leadership and care for people is probably marked with a bit more patience, a bit more slow paced, a bit more intentionality – and a whole lot of love.
It looks a lot like Jean Vanier, the founder of the original L’Arche Community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Jean spent his whole adult life humanizing those with special needs with real human relationship rather than the institutionalized solution provided by conventional hospitals.
Can you imagine the kind of daily, consistent sacrifice this required of a man like Jean? To learn how to genuinely love even a single, functional human being of that depth is something most of us (myself included) have a hard time providing. Let alone those who require a “special” degree of attention, focus, and energy.
L’Arche Communities is an international organization these days, with a mission “To change the world, one heart at a time.”
When Jesus said, “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first,” (Matt. 19:30) I would be willing to bet he meant men like Jean Vanier. Before the end of his life, he said in an interview: “When you admire people, you put them on pedestals. When you love people, you want to be together.” (Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb”, Nashville TN, Nelson Books, 2017; p.111).
The guarantee of living a meaningful life is to give of your time to those who you would overlook and cast aside. The very people you don’t want to spend your time with.
Jean provides a refreshing example of what life is all about. Meaning in life requires sacrifice of our time, our resources, our energy, our status. It means we sacrifice ourselves. There’s nothing glamorous about it. In fact, without the promise of King Jesus that he’ll meet us in the midst of our self-giving and on the other side of our sacrifices – there’s nothing about it that’s particularly redeemable. But he does make much of our humble efforts. The very least being that we end up finding out what life is really about – and we stumble upon the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44) that it is to lose our lives for his sake (Matt. 10:39). Continue reading “The Guaranteed Way for a Meaningful Life”