Last week, I received my most recent full-color large-stock corporate mailer postcard from the local “Christian, Inc.” On one side is a picture of a young man looking quite hip sitting against a wall and just sort of staring out in into space. The caption in big bold letters was “WHY AM I HERE?” And there was this forced rustic overlay made to look like the card was old. This seems to be a very common theme and I’m guessing it is an attempt at putting the card on par with the ancient vaporware this business sells as its primary product. My first response upon finding it among my weekly grocery ads (and my anxiously awaited ebay find) was “yeah… why are you here?… this is my mailbox and I never asked for you to be here.” But then the real purpose of the question began to bother me.
The business is named “Abundant Life Fellowship.” On the backside of the card was a map and a very snazzy logo under the heading that read “Find Answers to the Greatest Questions in Life.” The name of the Sunday recruitment event was “Living Life on Purpose.” Wow! Lots of use of the word “purpose” and “life” here. As in “get a life.” Literally. I mean, what level of desperation does one need to find their answers in ancient superstitions? Sadly, all types. From the over-extended single mother to the successful businessman and father, many people are very similarly situated in their struggles with life’s big questions. Although you’d think they’d want REAL answers. You know, being as real answers help to solve real problems and are for the most part real easy to find and really really interesting?
So I began thinking about how we ended up in this situation. Here in my area alone, several different corporate-type churches exist in strip malls. And there’s one that rents space every week at the local movie theater. They each have a snazzy logo and catchy slogan. And they all promise “answers to life’s greatest questions.” Questions they themselves put into people’s heads with their incessant mailers. Answers that ALWAYS begin with the word “why.” This is precisely how they trick people. They promise answers to the WRONG QUESTIONS. Think for a moment about the question “why am I here?” If you’re a critical thinker at all, you’ve already realized that a question that begins with “why” implies intent. If I ask a carpenter why he uses a hammer, I will get a very different answer than if I ask HOW he uses a hammer. The answer to the question why will help us to understand what the carpenter intends to do. The answer to the question how will help us understand what his hammer actually does. If I want to know how to hammer a nail, I am be better off asking how to do it than to ask why I should do it.
The same goes for my life. And if we’re talking about human origins – as in where we came from – I’d be much better off asking HOW we got here. Once I know how we got here, the why falls into place. Even if that means accepting that there is no answer to why concerning our origins. Although there are plenty of whys concerning my present position and my future plans. These things require some thought and decision-making. Things which, unlike our origins, are full of why questions. I know why I want the things I want. I know why I need the things I need. And I know why I do (most of) the things I do. Where I can use some help is knowing HOW to get these things done. So before I ask such a silly question as “why am I here?,” I’ll ask “how did I get here?” It makes more sense to ask the right questions being as I want useful answers.