All posts by ashleymcarmichael

Finding Purpose

What lie has been perpetuated throughout time, but carries with it connotative fear that can send even the most rational person to the edge of lunacy?

 Purposelessness.

No one wants to believe that we are here on the planet for no reason—further still, no one wants to believe that we are completely meaningless. Do people sometimes spot this as a philosophy? Yes. Do people believe this to be true? Yes. But I also believe that the philosophers and believers in this meaningless existence also fear that this ‘truth’ as they see it, is in fact true.

 And what if it is?

 The novella The Mysterious Stranger ends with the following statement:

“It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities” (68).

Nothing exists but you.

The center of a narcissistic world loves this idea. For a while. And then it sinks in.

Nothing exists but you.

Vagrant, homeless, wandering—Sure it’s all about you, but you have nowhere to belong to, so what is the point of you?

We scramble around from point A to point B constantly searching for a way to make ourselves stand out from the crowd, to create some kind of meaning for our lives. Then suddenly all that hope that we will someday be able to find a purpose is ripped out from under us with three small words: It is true.

So where does this lie originate?

Mark Twain’s novella pinpoints this perfectly through the mysteriously appearance, intrusion, insertion, interference, and manipulation of the mysterious stranger in his novella. Though the story is started by Twain and finished by a team of editors prior to publication, what the reader learns about the mysterious stranger is profoundly philosophical.

The only one who would profit from such a lie is the Father of Lies himself, and to perpetuate the greatest lie of all, he would have to build on a foundation of truth. And isn’t that what makes a lie great? That it is actually believable?

Take the Mysterious Stranger for example. Without spoiling the story, the stranger arrives in a tiny hamlet of a town and performs tricks and treats to excite some impressionable young boys. His good looks and smooth words give him the credibility that he needs establishing his ethos. The treats and tricks tap into the boys’ pathos. This makes the manipulation of the logos, some of which is based on truth, much easier for the boys to swallow, believe and ultimately follow.

In the same way, the Father of Lies wants us to believe that we are alone in this universe. That we are not only the center of the world but that our selfish attitudes are actually a part of a greater reality and truth. That we have NOTHING to be thankful for.

And if we believe that, we trap ourselves in an eternal misery separated from the joy that is our birthright as children of God.

I don’t want to live like that.

I want to be thankful for who I am, but more than that, I want to be thankful for who God is and who God created me to be. I am not alone. There is a world, a universe, a God, a loving savior.

I’m not saying the way is going to be easy; in fact, breaking free from the lies that have cocooned me for years is back breaking work. As Ann Voskamp says in her book One Thousand Gifts:

“I would never experience the fullness of my salvation until I expressed the fullness of my thanks every day, and eucharisteo is elemental to living the saved life […] This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed. Eucharisteo, the Greak word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live—this is the only way from empty to full” (40).

I’m ready to stop believing the lies and start living the eucharisteo—but I’m going to need all the help I can get.