Defining our purpose

Throughout the ages, learned men have dedicated their lives to seeking the answer to why are we here, what is our reason for being?

When my mom was in the hospital, one of many visits, and one that would be her last, I sought a place of refuge from the reality of her rapidly declining health. This once strong, vibrant, funny, compassionate woman lay before me unable to move…to speak…to eat…or do any human activity through her own power. She had been betrayed by…and trapped in…her own body. There seemed to be no one who could help her. Like so many times before, I turned to an unseen God whom I often thought was deaf to my countless prayers and desperate pleas for His attention.

I had always wondered why are we here…does it really matter how we treat one another…where do we go when life is over? This was never an obsession; just fleeting thoughts over the years. But through my mom’s debilitating illness, they became relentless questions I could no longer push away. There had to be a purpose for all this. I struggled to make the unreasonable reasonable. Frankly, I wasn’t getting anywhere; just digging a deeper track as I ran around in circles desperately seeking an answer.

Profound words for meditation on the wall of a hospital chapel.

I was drained, weak, so tired, and ready to turn off all awareness. I needed a refuge, some place to find calm, to regain strength for myself and my family so I went down to the hospital chapel. As I sadly opened its heavy glass door, I froze. I physically could not move as I read the words displayed across one wall. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

It’s difficult to explain, but it was like being flash frozen and thawed at the same moment. Perhaps it’s how Saul, later Saint Paul, felt when he was struck blind on the road to Tarsus and was transformed. I, too, was paralyzed, unable to take any step forward as I absorbed the power of these two simple sentences.

These words were a revelation. They were the ointment I had been seeking for my deeply wounded soul. At that moment, the cloud I was under cleared. I understood God was telling me that my mom was going home to Him. It was bittersweet…painful, yet nourishing. I believe these words written by Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a 20th century Jesuit priest, philosopher and scientist, explains best our quest for the truth of why we are all here. When you consider life through his understanding, it all seems to makes sense.

Our body is a shell for our true spiritual self. Having a physical presence lets us feel this world, but it is only a brief encounter. Dipping our toes in the water of the ocean doesn’t make us a fish, but as we dive in and swim around, we can enjoy a fleeting experience of this alien world of water surrounding us. But we cannot stay there forever. It is unnatural for a land-bound creature to exist long there. We must go back to the land, to the life for which we were made.

This seemingly chance encounter brought me much needed peace, if only for a moment, as my mom died shortly after. Since then I have come to a better understanding of these deeply profound words. I believe we are here to serve our fellow man – to take care of…to comfort…to laugh with…to love…all those whom we meet, and live with – on our human journey. There is no need for any of us to spend so much time seeking answers. I found it right in front of me, and so I want to share this with you. Use your experiences here to love, to serve. It is why, for just a short time, we are all here.