Faith: In the beginning was ‘Real Life’
Writer’s note: I’ve missed my last couple of times to write a column because I tried to sit down to study and write on a new or timely subject. Those efforts always ended the same way with me running out of time or getting sidetracked with all of the other responsibilities of my week. For this column, I chose to adapt the first message that I will be giving this school year at Young Life, and if you’re reading this, it means it worked.
Philosophers throughout the history of the world have wrestled with the question: “What is this life for?” Or “What is our purpose?”
Here are some thoughts about living life from philosophers of the 21st century.
“I’m a dead man walkin’, follow my footprints.” — ‘Lil wayne
“Y.O.L.O.” — Drake
I’m not sure that I spend a lot of time in high school thinking directly about the idea of the purpose of life. I was not think about my legacy or how I would be remembered or even beyond the next five years.
In my mind, I had lots of life left, but I certainly pursued the things that I thought gave me purpose in life. A state championship, relationships, grades, my car, a job, my family, happiness. All of those things can be good. But do they cover our purpose in life?
One privilege that I have when I get to stand up in front of teenagers at Young Life is to provide an opportunity for them to get a little bit out of their everyday lives.
I hope to move them out of the tunnel vision of being a teenager. I love that I get to talk to them about a bigger picture. I consider it a privilege because I think it is something that not many people involved in teenagers’ lives get to do.
So many people in their lives — coaches, teachers, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, bosses and others — are directing teenagers to perform in some immediate way, and they all want immediate results.
As a Young Life leader and mentor, I don’t have many checklists or prerogatives or requirements. That’s why we don’t take attendance at Young Life: We know that sometimes life gets a little hectic and they can’t make it on Monday. That’s fine.
We are more interested in the big picture and holistic life.
Throughout the semester we talk about life. What is the purpose? Is there a purpose? What are we doing here?
There are two basic ideas about life in the world: life was random or life was created. Either we are derived from some particles that somehow came together — either in some mud or through a big explosion — or some divine being put all of life in place.
People who believe that it was all random believe that as humans we return to the mud that we came from and we are done. A lot of philosophers who think that way, think that the only thing we can do is live the best life that we can find to live while we are alive. We define what life is for ourselves.
The people who believe that there is a creator of life look to the creator for the answers of life. In Young Life, we believe the Creator is the one found in the Bible.
And the answer to life … well, let me give you my best attempt by quoting a part of the Bible that I’m going to stay in all semester. I’m going to read from the book written by a man named John. There are many Johns in the Bible, but this one was one who lived right along with Jesus in all three years of His ministry.
John began his book pretty boldly. He started it the same way the first part of the Bible starts … “In the beginning.”
Here is the rest of what he wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
We have to get a little bit studious to explain what John meant.
The word “word” was meant to represent Jesus. John wrote his book in Greek. And the word for “word” is “logos.” The word logos means “logic” or “full knowledge.” To take it a little further, it means “order of life.”
So what John was saying was that in the in the beginning God and “Order of Life” were together. God and the meaning of life were one. When God spoke, life was created.
When we talk to teens about Jesus, we believe we are doing the best to focus on life. We believe that the creator of the universe knows what’s up with what they created.
Back to the question, “What is life?” I don’t think John was messing around. He wanted to start his book with something that was going to get people’s attention. So he started it with his answer: In the beginning was real life … How do we look for purpose? We look to the creator and understander of life.
As I close, I want you leave you with something to think about. What has been the purpose of your life so far? Have you even ever considered that Jesus offered a picture of real life — or just a picture of some ancient dude who maybe did some weird things that your grandparents talk about?
My hope is that every time we are speaking with teenagers, we will provide a little more of a road map regarding real life.
I know I am still learning about it. I hope that I still desire that when I am looking back at my life. And instead of saying, “I’m a dead man walking,” I hope I can say, “Jesus, I did what I could to follow your Real Life. Thank you for showing me the way.”
David Pressgrove is the area director for Bear River Young Life in Craig.
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