Living On Purpose

–Dr. Garry K. Brantley

In one of his Far Side cartoons, Gary Larson depicts a chalkboard, two thirds of which is filled with a long, complex mathematical equation complete with Greek letters, plenty of parentheses, and a healthy number of brackets. The sum total of this contorted symbolic expression is a big fat “zero.” Two middle-aged, “nerdish” scientists are looking at their joint effort with stoic satisfaction. The one to whom the caption implicitly is attributed stands with his hands on his hips. The caption reads: “No doubt about it, Ellington—we’ve mathematically expressed the purpose of the universe. God, how I love the thrill of scientific discovery.”

In Larson’s own unique way, he was able to capture visually the contradiction between arrogant rationalism and the primal recognition—and need—we all have of something (someone) that is larger than ourselves. While the scientists gloated over their nihilistic theory expressed mathematically, God was just as easily—and enthusiastically—evoked and, ironically, praised for the accomplishment.

As I reflected on this cartoon, God put on my heart the words of Isaiah: “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7). Our human rationality is good, for it also comes from God. It becomes bad when Satan twists it for his own evil purposes. There are many in our world who, like the fictional scientists in Larson’s cartoon, believe that there is no ultimate purpose to the universe and, therefore, to their own lives. From this perspective, we are nothing but a fortuitous combination of molecules in a world of evolutionary confusion. Such a thought inevitably leaves us empty, longing for something else.

As humans, we bear the imprint of God in our souls. We have been created in his image. Despite the loud voices of radical rationalism, we intuitively sense that God exists and, somehow, engages us. And, as Isaiah reminds us, our ultimate purpose for living is to glorify God with soul, body, and mind. May we never forget who we are…and WHOSE we are!!