“Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives,
that going day after day for years to this office or that school
or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness.
But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us
Christ would not be there.
If our being there means that Christ is there,
that alone makes it worthwhile.” ― Caryll Houselander
I remember my grandfather telling me when I was in college that the preoccupation young people (like me) have to be ‘happy’ and ‘fulfilled’ in their job leaves them without a steady rudder in life. The steady rudder needed, he argued, must be a firm commitment to contribute first to the good of others. That should be the prime motive for all our labor, and is the ground of stability required for human flourishing.
Happiness, he loved to say, comes from the word ‘hap,’ which means chance or fortune. Like ‘hapless’ or ‘happenstance.’ Happiness, he told me, is unstable, chancy, comes and goes, but the determined resolve to first do good for others can always remain without succumbing to hap. And, he added, when you forge a character through this kind of consistent commitment, happiness comes in a form less fickle and fleeting — a form we can never know if we don’t set aside our ego-driven approach to life.
Though he did not use Houselander’s language, my grandfather’s philosophy was really a refraction of Christ. His life of hard work and sacrificing for his family and his business, as well as his 75+ years of faithful marriage to my grandmother through thick and thin revealed Christ the “faithful witness” [martys ho pistis] (Rev. 1:15) to me. And to countless others.
Though I am, in all sincerity, far weaker and more self-centered than my grandparents, their example and influence live on in me. Inspire me. Judge me.
Our Church exists to give birth to men and women “for others.” Generations of people who are ready to live by that same steady otherward resolve. “It’s not about me, it’s about thee.”