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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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What's meaningful to you?

What's your idea of a meaningful life? Close your eyes and tip your head forward or back and ask yourself, "What's been meaningful to me?"

Your mother's love, your father's, some of your first dates, your marriage, your children — especially when they were young, your accomplishments or lack of them? How about some of your troubles and losses? They were full of meaning too.

Your feelings undoubtedly varied with age. Childhood experiences differ from those during adolescence. And your life during early adult years was or will be different from later years.

What gives meaning to your life besides love and family? Schools you attended? Camping and maybe sports? Travel? Work? Good neighbors and friends? Volunteering? The arts? Books? Music?

What is this meaning most people want? Is it a feeling of value and of being valued? Or maybe a feeling of a goal and a purpose? Some people call it their reason for living or their destiny or causes they support and live for.

Or is your meaning mainly the satisfaction that comes from being loved and the joy that comes from being valued?

Several books on self-care have recently appeared. And there are lots of books on caring for others and doing things for others. That's a way to find meaning.

There's also the possibility of developing relationships with others. But how does bonding with others take place? It usually involves communicating.  But what does communication with others require? How does "getting in touch with others" happen? What does "opening up to others" demand?

Even more important is seeing meaning in almost anything and seeing the marvels of given moments. How can we see meaning in what we do or in what happens? Have you ever had such experiences?

Religion gives meaning to a lot of people. A psalmist wrote, "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God" (Psalm 42:1). And Jesus said, "Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty." Jesus added, "The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (John 4:14).

That's why a great disciple of Jesus called Paul once wrote: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure ... whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

So what do you value? Money, people, things? Of course, if they serve good purposes. But also your education and accomplishments, and the love you have received, and the opportunities you've had to love, and your faith — especially your life with Jesus. Think of these things, and you'll see what has made your life meaningful.


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