Life, Purpose and the World
By Suzanne Rowe
Without purpose, the people perish. Why strive for nothing? Only in God does life have meaning. He gives generously, but His gifts are to be used wisely. We’re only stewards, after all. We spend a brief time on earth and then move on.
My life has been one of abundant blessings, meaning, purpose and even fun along the way. It is a privileged life, and with privilege comes responsibility.
Life for me began in a land not my home. It is a land distant from that of our ancestors. It is a land of mountains, islands, sea, volcanoes and tribes of people speaking many different languages. Our parents and grandparents were white people there in a black land, seeking to ‘make a difference’. This is the land of my birth, but not the land I call home. ‘Home’ is Australia – the land that once belonged to black people but is now a white land – a land of immigrants.
Confident, idealistic, ‘out to save the world’, my friends and I headed to India for our university summer holidays. We stepped out of the airport into a crowded, smelly throng. Too late to check into our hotel, we spread our sleeping bags around our luggage and slept.
We awoke to find ourselves between some Muslims and Mecca. Our senses were assaulted on every front – the women dressed in colorful saris, the honking horns, the cries of peddlers selling their wares, the persistent tugging on our sleeves and hearts by beggars, the smell of curry, the stench of the streets, and then there were the long train trips. Masses of humanity compressed into carriages chugged through the vast countryside, leaving behind trails of soot. Tired, stressed, crushed but still idealistic, I gazed upon the amazing Ganges – that polluted but very holy river – and wondered at all this river had witnessed over the millennia.
Living in slums and mansions, beggars, landlords, untouchables and Brahmins, India is people – people created and loved by God. India is Hindus accepting their lot and just trudging through life. India is Buddhists – content but also working as communities to improve their life.
"I serve Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God," I said.
"Who is He?" the people asked.
Where are the Christians? A few gather in English style churches, the men wearing suits but the women modestly covering their legs while baring their bellies. There are people everywhere. Rats, too. Occasionally people and rats physically fight for space. India is people enjoying curry, chapattis, bananas and chai. India is a country full of people – religious people – people for whom Christ died. Yet, they don’t even know of Him. Idealistic? This is reality. I’ve found my purpose.
As I talked and prayed about where I should 'fulfill my purpose in life', the opportunity arose for me to visit Indonesia. Hot, humid, crowded, exciting, Indonesia is the land of a thousand islands. There are people everywhere. They are religious in name but few are devout. The fruit is fabulous. The language is easy. The growing church is actively reaching out to its community.
I was challenged. "Lord, send me here – I’m willing, even though it’s oh, so hot."
But through experiences gained in Indonesia, He sent me to China instead.
First though was more preparation in Australia, working towards my purpose in life but not without purpose even in the moment. I moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere. It is a tired town. Tired of generations of bitterness, anger, superiority, ‘being the victim’ and complaining. The people have a point. Why do they have to learn the white man’s ways? Yet, what are the black man’s ways? Can anyone remember? Let alone teach the young people? This is a community without purpose.
This town is a little boy, putting his football trophies on his dad’s coffin. The boy is so little because of fetal alcohol syndrome, the father dead after yet another drunken spree.
What hope is there? The hope of getting out of this community? But this is their land. The hope of a good job? Where? Why? Surely, hope is found only in God. Yet, even the church is messed up, black and white divided, and then whites against whites. Why would you go to the church to find God?
Lord, have mercy. Grant this community hope and purpose. It will take a miracle.
China – it sounds exotic and it is if you’re an Australian girl there. At last, the life I’d prepared for over years had begun. I’ve worked hard at developing my new life, in a new culture, a new language, even with a new name, and I found myself fitting in … yet sticking out. Still inside, I was the same idealistic girl, working to achieve my purpose in life.
China is history – very ancient history, modern history – and China is the future. China is a rich, magnificent culture … and China is many cultures, many peoples, many languages, many costumes and many songs. Who can tell what place China will take in the world this century? It will surely be significant.
Life in China means walking in the footsteps of the saints, both Chinese and foreign. But I’m unable to live up to the standards they’ve set … at least as the books portray them. The realization hits me that I’m never going to be accepted as an ‘insider’, that my inadequacies are many, and that despite the years of preparation, I’m never going to ‘save the world’. Surely, it is only God who saves. Only in working toward His purposes with our eyes fixed firmly on Him does life have any meaning at all.
Without purpose, the people perish. Why strive for nothing? Only in God does life have meaning. He gives generously but His gifts are to be used wisely. We’re only stewards after all. Where I am, what I do is irrelevant outside of a relationship with Him. ‘My’ purpose stands for nothing. It is all about ‘His’ purpose. And that is what gives meaning and purpose to life. It’s all about Him.
Suzanne Rowe is an Australian teacher, usually found working in China with an NGO called 'Evergreen'. She has been primarily conducting English refresher courses for practicing Chinese teachers of English. Suzanne is at present living back in Australia, but is planning to return to China in August 2005.
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