What is the meaning of life? …No, but actually, what do we mean by the word “life”? Today, I plan on writing and seeing what comes out of it. We’ll explore as the paths lead and hopefully it turns out to be a coherent piece of writing. Thank you in advance for your patience :) So, life. Is it breath? Is it a really great cereal? Is it that board game that makes a lot of people angry and one person really happy? Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Ok, that one was unnecessary but I’m not going to delete it… In order to look into what ‘life’ means, let’s look at the opposite first: death. In the same way that darkness is the absence of light, death is the absence of life. Dead things decompose, they stagnate, they’re motionless, they’re done growing, they’re unengaged and have no more voluntary contributions to the world. Everything that happens to dead things just happens to them and they can’t do anything about it.
As far as I can think, all living things have something circulating in them. They have the ability, in some shape or form, to affect their environment. They give and they receive. Living things must have a capacity to grow and change. Living people have choice, they have agency. Living water must have movement or else it stagnates. All living things require input (some type of life-giving sustenance) and output (some way to get rid of excess). In economics, input with no output leads to inflation. Output with no input leads to depression. So even economics have life, that’s why it’s called currency (root word: current). It must flow for it to stay alive.
A great friend of mine once said that the best way to hold life is to hold it like you would hold sand. If you try to squeeze sand, it seeps through your fingers. The tighter you squeeze, the more you lose. When you hold sand with an open palm, that’s when you can actually retain it. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). I don’t think He meant that you have to try hard to die physically as soon as possible in order to find life. Rather, I venture that it’s the same principle as holding the sand. The more you try to control your own life, the less of it you actually have. It’s when you relinquish control to God that you’ll find true fulfillment and all of the great qualities about life that we discussed earlier. Like most things with Jesus, this is backwards to our natural minds. The tighter we try to hold on, the less secure our life actually is. If you were trying to protect a baby bird, like my good friend Ricardo from one of my first blog posts (click here to read) and you squeezed him too hard you’d kill him. The key is to hold him gently enough to let him breath and securely enough to keep him from further injuring himself. The more we try to dictate our own lives, the less room their is for the amazing. You choke the life right out of it.
Let’s talk about agency, the power to choose, as one of the elements of life that we discussed earlier. Another friend of mine who speaks to youth, most of whom happen to be on slippery slope, often encourages them to use their power to choose wisely and make the right ones while they can, because if they were to end up in prison everything would be dictated to them. In correctional facilities, they tell you when you will eat, when you will go to your bed, when you will get up, how long you will be outside, what color clothes you will wear… everything. It’s death to your ability to have agency. When you take matters into your own hands and step outside of the right choices, you lose your ability to choose. “I’ll do it my own way” doesn’t get you very far in the long run. There are consequences to every action. And after you die physically, you really run out of choices. God doesn’t give commandments to confine us, but to keep us safe and to set us free to walk a healthy and prosperous life. A good parent doesn’t tell you not to touch the hot stove just because they have the power to say whatever they want. They know the consequences and they don’t want you to go there. And there are positive implications to this premise, too. If you follow the directions of someone who teaches you how to eat healthier, the consequences are that you’ll probably get to enjoy a much longer and healthier life. You may even have the privilege of being able to play with your grandchildren. If you were to try to keep your own way of life, eating what you want, you’ll lose your life. If you let go of what you feel like doing and start eating what’s right, you’ll find your life. Those are some practical examples but this applies to many areas.
In the book of John, chapter 10, verse 10, Jesus said that He came that we “would have life and life more abundantly”. Because He’s the way, the truth, and the life, it’s impossible to walk in the fullness of life without Him. You’ll always have that sense that there’s something missing. Even some people that know Him have the “life” part of that Scripture, but not the “life more abundantly”. That’s when you’re alive with a lot of dead tendencies. Here, life happens to you instead of you taking responsibility for your actions and exerting your agency. Here, you’re not truly flowing and growing. Here, you allow God to be in control of some areas of your life but you try to keep Him out of most of them. As we said in the first paragraph, it’s the absence of life: you’re decomposing, stagnating, motionless, and unengaged with God and the world around you that He created.
Some people walk the Way of Jesus, moving in humility and love and exhibiting some of His characteristics. Some know Him as the truth, acknowledging that He is who He says He is. But how many people truly experience Him as the Life? As their sustenance? As their source? He is the breath in all things: “In Him and through Him all things were created” (Colossians 1:16). The good news is that because He’s the manifestation of Life, if you allow Jesus into any dead situation, He is able to breathe new life into it. As we reflect on the miracle of Easter, it’s tough to comprehend that as a follower of Christ the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now living within us. We have the resurrection life-giving power available to us. There is no situation too hopeless for God, or too dead for Him to make it come alive. Invite Him in.
“For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud
And bring forth branches like a plant.”
~ Job 14:7-9