Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
—Revelation 22: 1-2
A “mission” is a journey with a specific destination or destiny in mind, “a sending or being sent for some duty or purpose.” This differs from an “adventure,” as an adventure has not specific destination or purpose. While both journeys, the differences between the two types are patent.
Here, I want to examine the purpose for our journeys, particularly our lives’ journeys. If not staring us directly in the face, the question for purpose seems always lingering somewhere in our peripheral vision. Why are we here? What are we to do? What constitutes the good life, the holy life, a well lived life? Questions simple to ask yet profound in their asking.
In his text The Reinvention of Work, Matthew Fox examines some of these questions. One direction he takes the reader is first to risk the journey into nothingness and uncertainty, to experience the vastness of the universe found both within and without. Similar to the sensation felt while standing at the ocean’s edge watching a violent sea, this embracing of mystery “puts us in our place,” as it were, reminding us both of our significance and insignificance simultaneously. We must explore the nothingness because in the nothingness we might find the mystery that is God, our purpose, and ourselves. He quotes the Sufi poet Rumi to link his notion of emptiness with purpose. Rumi writes,
I have said before that every craftsman
searches for what’s not there
to practice his craft.
A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.
Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting your net
into it, and waiting so patiently?
This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it “death,”
that which provides you sustenance and work.
As the repeatedly-present river of life that begins and ends the narrative of the bible suggests, our life’s purpose is somehow defined by a water’s edge. Join us this week as we (re)consider our purposeful work in this life and world.
Have a wonderful week. See you along the way!