Those who know me know that over the years, I've been a man intent on living a life that has purpose, that has meaning. Trying to answer or find that place of meaning, to make sure my life was not wasted, nor was it selfish, has led me through many amazing experiences and ways to serve. In fact, even this question underlies my faith, because I find that only in a God who "creates" life can there be any meaning to that life...
However, I have realized that I was definitely a white, Western, American, male in my understanding. Or, in other words the meaning of life was somehow wrapped up in what I DID. It was utilitarian, that somehow the meaning of life was finding that career, or location, or way to serve and lead, that I was meant to do. I'm sure there is some truth that is still found in this, in the specifics that make me uniquely who I am. However, that has not been a fulfilling way to see the meaning of life, because it gets wrapped up in selfish goals that give meaning at the expense (perhaps) of something else. Achievement and success make a man. Those who serve the right higher cause is where my value and purpose comes from.
This was even clothed in valid, good, things. My desire, and it continues to resonate with me, is to hear from God at the end of my life "Well done, good and faithful servant." Yet what has changed is that this has little to do with how much I achieve, and everything to do with simply allowing my life to be overcome by God's intention for it. Nothing I do or don't do gives me any worth, and even in the midst of success or failure, I can feel alone, empty, or unworthy. When we try to do things this way, from a perspective of self toward the world around us, it will place us there.
But I've realized that there is a much deeper, more profound reality to the meaning of life. What is the meaning of life?
Life. To live.
Life has meaning because it IS.
Regardless of what I do, my career, worldview, or even my belief life still has intrinsic worth. Life has meaning because its alive.
Let me break this down just a bit in a Christian context. We often know about "original sin" and the fall of man. I agree that this has happened. But yet does this make humanity completely bad? Are we inherently bad? I know strict 5-point Calvinism and some Christians really do hold to this outlook. But I cannot get past the preceding story of creation in Genesis. God created us, male and female, in their image. Also, the creation in which he placed us was called good. Our decisions, as beings with the ability to love or reject God, separated us from God (original sin). Yet there remains in each of us that image of God, and regardless of whatever we have done - good or bad - we are still loved.
Regardless of what we do, we are loved.
For me, this really does mean that the meaning of life is not dependent upon anything we do, but on who we are. When we finally get this, and I'm trying to let this sink in to me more each and every day because I'm pretty sure I've not fully gotten it, we see how it is freeing. This is the Gospel of Jesus, the rule of life that we find in Him. I am alive because God created me. We all are. In creating, God wants a relationship. We've (I've) separated and rejected him (sin), and yet he still loves and reconciles...this is the story of Israel and the fulfillment of it by Jesus. This doesn't revert back to something I do or don't do to earn living in that relationship with God. It's not earned - it's available because I am human, and God loves.
This truth leads me back to the meaning of life. Life is meant to be lived, not in striving for something, to be someone, or to accomplish or avoid certain acts.
Life is meant to be lived.
Life is meant to be spent in relationship with God and with others. Jesus sums this up perfectly, when asked about the Law (Torah) of Israel. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Just live, without worry or strife, because we are in relationship, and should be in relationship! Let's not let 'things,' 'ideas,' or 'concepts' prevent us from living. Embrace each other in the same way that God embraces us. Love as He loves...there is no other way.
To live is the meaning of life. Love lets us live as we were created rather than as we see fit to strive for some end. We're already where we need to be.