I am at odds with existence.
It seems to come so easily to everyone else. She lands the internship and he gets the scholarship. Her parents bought her a new BMW for her sixteenth birthday. I got community college and go through grad school one class at a time so I can afford it without loans. And saved up to buy a 1991 Subaru.
She settled down with the man of her dreams at 22 while I prep for my third Bumble date of the week at 28-and-a-half.
Existence comes so easy to some folks.
It’s almost like they don’t realize that they exist. They seem unaware that there was a time when they didn’t exist, and there will be a time that they won’t. Do they wonder how much their life will have mattered when held up like a strip of film negatives to the awful brightness of history? The timeline of humanity pauses for no pedestrian to gather up their worth and display it to the world.
That’s what plagues me.
A few months ago I lay on a motel bed beside a friend and confessed that I fear dying without having accomplished anything that will be remembered in 100 years.
Much less 1,000.
Much less 1,000,000.
I feared descending into the deep void of vanity. She said she was happy to just love the people in her life and wanted them to know she loved them before she went on. I wished it was that simple for me, but again, I seem to be at odds with existence. There must be more to this life thing, right? What good do the plebes of history serve? Who remembers Plato’s other students besides Aristotle?
I told her I feared dying as a forgettable nobody and having the world move on as if I’d never been here. Like there is this great big something out there that needs to be done by me, and if it’s not, then I’ll have died in a meaningless oblivion. My significance suffocates with me beneath six feet of dirt. It’s a terrifying thing to stand on the edge of the abyss; there’s a thin shelf of existence holding us over eternity and everyone else seems to calmly go about their life atop this feeble board.
I walk my dog and throw the ball for her—a meaningless act because she has cancer. Soon she will not exist and all the effort poured into her will have come to naught.
I can’t sit still anymore.
I always need to be producing.
You’ll tell me it’s because I’m a 3 on the Enneagram and I’ll tell you no, it’s because nothingness is inches away.
Genesis 16 comes to mind, where Abraham’s servant girl (whom he raped) and her son are sent out from him into the wilderness. God meets her there, where He often meets us, the nobodies of the world, and basically just lets her know that He still sees her. She calls Him “The God Who Sees Me,” and it’s one of my favorite names for God in the Bible.
Because in all of our obsession with performance these days, it’s nice to know that we have an audience. However, this audience does not seem to be as concerned with how well we executed the dance steps as He is with how well we are existing.
“Ooooh, you’re existing real good today,” God says, delighted.
Is it that simple? Is that all we need to do in order to please God? I’m wrestling with that because it seems like there should be more; like you should have to get into the right college or give the right amount to charity.
Brennan Manning believed that in heaven, God only asks us one questions to get in: “Did you believe that I loved you?”
It’s hard to justify my existence without pouring out effort into doing so; without leaving a sort of tangible mark on the generation. Perhaps the trap through which my mind keeps falling is that fame (or, number of people influenced) is equivalent to success, worth, and a verified existence. Maybe my life will get a blue check mark next to it. Maybe it’s why I strive to stay in ridiculously good shape, or pump out an obscene amount of writing, hoping to impact that many more people.
Because a life passed through silently and unobserved is wasted…right?
But then I ask myself: How many celebrities from the previous generation can I name? Or the one before that? Or before that? (Ironically they’re mostly authors, so maybe I have a decent shot after all)
It’s a lie to think that existence—or its value—is predicated on accomplishments. Perhaps God really is alright with us taking daily time to be okay with being.
Are you able to just…be?
Can you be alright with being?
One thing I learned last year, which I’m still opening up like a piñata, is that Jesus doesn’t just trade our sin for His righteousness.
He doesn’t just take our bad stuff and give us good stuff.
He doesn’t just dwell in the realm of ethics, where we often sequester Him.
He also takes our meaninglessness and gives it meaning.
He takes a being which once did not exist and gives us existence.
It’s crazy to think that sin doesn’t just touch the judicial system of ‘breaking the law’ but the very nature of existence and meaning, such that to dwell with sin is to dwell among the land of the meaningless. It’s like holding onto a fistful of chaff or continually performing inane actions hoping for a different result. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Is sin insanity?
In offering us freedom from sin, Jesus offers us meaning. Sanity. Not because of things we have done, but because we are found in the One who matters. We are seen by the only One whose gaze is worth a damn. And that’s an audience I’m happy to hold captive. What do I need to do to keep His attention?
Just be. 🙂
Ethan, keep searching. You are getting close. I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with oikonomias, namely God’s eternal economy, His eternal purpose. It is this ‘eternity in your heart’ that has you seeking and hungry, even as a believer in Christ.