For those of you who have ever taken a step of faith only to find excrement strategically positioned between your foot and ground, this one’s for you. I titled my first post “Step One” which is sorta ironic considering that that “step” left me cleaning out the treads of my shoe…or so it seemed.

When I first realized that my time in California was going to be cut short, I began trying to make sense of a situation that seemed to lack any. I was left questioning the purpose of my last seven months spent in Santa Cruz given that I would be leaving internshipless. Realizing that I essentially lost a year of my program, the overall suck of the situation was turned up to about a 9. The whole thing seemed pretty pointless. A scene from Black Sheep actually sums up how I was feeling nicely…because I often turn to Chris Farley when I have trouble expressing myself:

Have there been moments over the past few months where I felt like I was literally rolling down a mountain side in a free-fall equalled only to that of Chris Farley in Black sheep…or Andy Samberg in Hotrod…or that guy at the end of Surf Ninjas? Well, no, because that’s just ridiculous (for those of you who liberally use the word “literally,” just stop it). However, there have definitely been moments when I’ve been left questioning the meaning behind some of my experiences just as Chris Farley did after arriving at the base of the mountainside. What in the hell was that all about?! If I had a quarter for every time  I was thrown a major life curveball that left me struggling to find meaning behind the chaos…okay, I’d probably only have about a dollar; but the fact remains that if we never look past the obvious, then we may never see the meaning. It’s the “whys” in life that have the power to keep us awake at night, doubt our actions, and make us question the clarity of hindsight (without meaning, or a sense of purpose, hindsight is rarely 20/20).

Plato once described man as being a creature in search of meaning. Now, chalk it up optimism, naivety, or my affinity for the movie Signs, but I agree with the Greek philosopher. However, his observation leaves me with a question: is man in search of meaning because there is, indeed, meaning to be found? Or, to put it another way: Does everything happen for a reason? Unfortunately, that’s a tough question to answer. While there are certain universal truths in this life, meaning and purpose lives and dies in the arms of the beholder. It is the perception with which we coat our experiences that either cultivates or kills that greater purpose many of us strive to find. Just as we have a choice between Cheerios and Corn Flakes in the morning, we have a choice to accept the existence of meaning and purpose in the wake of a profound experience. But, it’s more than just a blind acceptance.

Oh sure, we all know Waldo is somewhere on that chaotic page, but will we actually dedicate the time to find him? To be satisfied knowing he’s there without knowing the where sorta defeats the purpose of the whole Where’s Waldo experience. It might as well then be called There’s Waldo…Somewhere; and that’s just stupid. Okay, I feel I’m starting to veer off course a little. The fact is, finding meaning and purpose in the things we experience takes some effort, but if you’re looking, you’ll find it. Thankfully, should we attempt to excavate meaning from the hardened soil of a bitter experience, we’re not alone in our search. Not only does God say that he will help us find meaning in the midst of struggle, but he will actually create it (water into wine was only the beginning). Romans 8:26-28 reads: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (The Message).

So, does everything happen for a reason? Well, perhaps that’s the wrong question. Maybe what we should ask is: Can everything happen for a reason? And I believe the answer to that is yes. Purpose can be derived, meaning can be created, and good can come from bad; it doesn’t make sense, but they can. When we were young, object permanence (also known as the secret behind peek-a-boo) was a big deal. That is, if we couldn’t see something, of course it wasn’t there. For a toddler, out-of-sight, out-of-mind is not a choice, it’s truth. But, it doesn’t take long for a child to undertand that just because something can’t be seen, doesn’t mean it’s not there (try playing peek-a-boo with a grade schooler if you don’t believe me). So, why is it that, as adults, many of us still grapple with this? How is it that we can have such a difficult time believing in the existence of something just because it’s not in our field of vision? At what point did the pendulum swing so far that we ended up back where we started convinced that the face masked behind raised hands is absent?

As an adult, it’s a choice  not to believe that which we can’t see–we can convince ourselves I can’t see good, so there is no good to be seen. How often then are we surprised when something positive finds its way out of something negative? I can’t help but imagine how God views such a repetitive behavior in interaction with each of us. Much like children playing peek-a-boo, our smiles and laughter are often dependent upon the concrete, the tangible, the seen. At what point will we realize that the source of joy is never absent? At what point do we understand and accept the object permanence of Christ’s good work? Sure, I lost a year of school during my time in California, but that’s the obvious. To take such an experience solely at face value is not only to ignore God’s good work, but is to willfully reject his created purpose as well.

In this life, days will suck, plans will change, and shit will happen (John 16:33, The Message) (Kidding…that’s actually from the original Greek). But, thankfully, the story doesn’t have to end there. Things can happen for a reason and good can be birthed from bad if we’re willing to look for it. Christ doesn’t say he might, can, or will work things for good, but that he already has.


~ by jontroll on May 2, 2012.

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