Whence and Whither
Tom Lynch of Milford is our local poet of world-wide renown. He shared with me a wonderful new collection of his spiritual musings entitled Whence and Whither? His book inspired me to take up the questions he ponders so winsomely in his poetry, essay and dramatic dialog.
Where does life come from? When I was a boy and asked that question, “Where did I come from?” I received one of the two standard responses given by mothers in 1959, “The stork brought you.” The other one was this, “We found you in the garden under a lettuce leaf.” It was a more innocent age. Such stories are no longer told to children today. But even a 2 year old in 1959 suspected there was more to it than that. Yet now we are all older and decidedly less innocent. We know a lot of things. We know things we wish we did not know. Yet for all of this information we still wonder, “Where did I come from? Indeed where did all of this come from?” We have much more detailed information to answer those questions yet it our hearts we suspect there’s got to be more to it than that. Here’s what we’re told: there was an explosion 14 billion years ago that spun out stars and planets and chunks of debris. And somehow in this accident we found you. That’s not much better that what my mother told me when I was two.
My parents took me to Sunday school and it was there I learned another story: “In the beginning, God.” We came from God. He planned us. He designed us. He engineered the mechanics of our bodies, the electrical connections in our heads, the fluid dynamics of our blood and lungs. We are not accidents, we are creations of God. I find this story compelling not only because it’s in the Bible but because it helps me make sense of the world. Life is not an accident but it comes from a good and loving God. If you accept that story, you are not far from the kingdom of God.
It’s one thing to know where you came from, it’s quite another to know why you are here. Why are we here? What is our purpose here on earth? I love Star Trek and Star Wars. I enjoy all the stories. They feed my imagination and entertain me endlessly. But all the evidence shows human beings are alone in the universe. Despite all of our best efforts over the last hundred years searching the heavens with powerful radio telescopes we have not found the faintest signal. Despite collecting dust and rocks from the moon and Mars and nearby asteroids, we have not found so much as a microbe. We are alone in the universe. That only sharpens the question. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?
Someone once asked Jesus that question. His answer was unforgettable. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) Now, I don’t know about you but I’m a simple guy. If someone rises from the dead, I say we go with what he says! I’m not messing around with anyone else’s opinion. I’m sold out for the teaching of the one and only guy in history who came back from the dead! Loving God is it for me. Knowing his will and living out his word is it for me. Caring for my neighbors is it for me. God, compassion, church, community—lots of people think I’m crazy and they’ve got a much better answer to the question but this is it. This is why we are here to love God and our neighbor. No, we can’t leave out the God part. In fact that comes first and foremost. I have it on the authority of a man who rose from the dead—end of conversation.
Yes but where is in all going? I see so much hatred and cruelty in the world. I see no future beyond death and decay. Is that it? Are we headed nowhere but dust? And if I accept that story why bother? Who wants to drive down a dead end street? Who wants to buy a ticket on the Titanic? We know how it ends and we don’t like it or want it. Oblivion is not much of a story. It’s depressing. Isn’t there someone or something that can tell us where we are going? Where all this is going? Enter Jesus:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
There you go. Jesus is the future. All of human history is flowing toward him. Your whole life is marching step by step toward him. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, Jesus is your future. All of us are going to meet him. For some it will come as a nasty shock but for most it will be an unutterable joy. We came from his glory. We are to live for his glory. We are bound for glory. God awaken all our souls to the true meaning of life.