January 17th, 2021

Doing and being have value


By JACOB M. VAN ZYL on January 1, 2021.

Fulfilling one’s purpose
First of three

Reaching a goal usually is the end of a process. Fulfilling a purpose is a long-term commitment.
If a lawnmower cannot cut grass, it is not fulfilling its purpose. Household appliances, electronic devices, tools and spanners, clothes and shoes, clocks and watches, cars and carts have specific purposes. If they cannot function properly, they are not fulfilling their intended purpose. They should be repaired or recycled.
Is that true of life forms, too? To a certain extent, yes; and to a certain extent, no. Trees can be seen as commodities that can be logged, cut into beams and used as building material. However, trees on streets, parks and properties do not have to do anything but to look beautiful. Their purpose is being what they are.
Animals that are bred for consumption have fulfilled their purpose when they have given their lives to serve humanity.
Prey animals may become dinner for predators, but most of them eventually die of disease, old age or in a fight with their own kind. The same lot awaits predators.
Wild animals do not have to serve humanity to justify their existence. Just by being what they are, they please their Maker – and those who can enjoy creation for its beauty and diversity.
Now, what about people? Do we have to fulfil a purpose to give meaning to our lives? Do laid-off or retired people still have a purpose? Absolutely!
The meaning of life is not only defined by doing, but also by being. A husband and wife, father and mother, child and friend do not lose their meaning and importance when they can’t do certain things anymore. Their presence and being provide meaning and purpose to those who love them. My wife remained a loved one when she developed dementia – she could still give and receive love.
Being there for someone in need, even if you can do little to change the misery, still gives comfort to that person.
Do not underestimate the power of the subconscious mind. When consciousness is limited by injury, disease or deterioration, the subconscious may still sense the presence and love of caring family and friends.
Holding a hand, stroking an arm, and saying a few encouraging words may reach a person’s subconscious although they cannot respond.
Jesus not only felt the excruciating pain of the crucifixion, but also the immeasurable agony of suffering God’s wrath on humanity’s sin, which he took onto himself.
In those long hours of physical, emotional and spiritual hell, he was still aware of his mother and disciple standing near the cross, suffering with him.
They fulfilled their purpose as supporters while he fulfilled his purpose as Saviour. By doing and being, their lives had meaning.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.

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