My husband is a high school teacher, and for the first fifteen years of his career, he spent his summer break teaching summer school. Over the past few years, he has finally been able to recognize that the break is supposed to be exactly that, a break. And so he gave up his summer teaching position to really take time in the summer to rest and restore. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how incredibly hard teachers work during the school year in increasingly challenging circumstances!
But what I’ve observed over the past few summers is that my husband has the hardest time taking a day off—and I mean taking it completely off. On summer afternoons he loves to go swimming at our town lake. Or maybe “swimming” isn’t exactly right: he doesn’t do laps or anything. Instead, he prefers to simply float on the water and relax—doing nothing, thinking about nothing in particular.
But here’s the catch: he won’t go to the lake in the afternoon unless he feels he has “earned” it. He has to do something productive in the morning—planting flowers, moving the lawn, endlessly pulling out weeds—in order to feel right about his lake-lounging in the afternoon.
I’m sure this philosophy makes sense to a lot of people. The relaxation is the reward for the hard work. It’s easy to get swept up into this world of accomplishments and score-keeping. This sense that we have to justify our existence in the world and always be productive. But this way of thinking results in a transactional view of our own worth. To have good things, we must earn it. To feel loved and appreciated, we must deserve it. To be considered a good and worthy person, we must work for it.
If you truly believe that you are a child of God, then this view is terribly misguided! As William Reiser, S.J. writes in his book The Potter’s Touch:
“We are alive, we exist on the earth for no other reason than this, that we have been loved.”
You were created to be loved by God. Imagine the freedom in that realization! You weren’t created to produce, labor, contribute, sacrifice, or anything else but simply to receive love. Everything else you do in your life should stem from that fundamental belief.
God loves us unconditionally. That means without conditions! There’s no declaration that begins with the words: “God loves me because…” Instead, we must only believe: “God loves me.”
We spend so much of our lives trying to prove things about ourselves.
- I’m successful because I own this many things or I’ve received this many promotions.
- I’m well-liked because I have this many friends or social media followers.
- I’m a good person because I’ve done this many good deeds.
All of those things are a part of life, but they aren’t the “WHY” of life. Achieving success at work is great, but it’s not why you were put here on this earth. Having friends is important, but it’s not why you were created. Doing good deeds is wonderful, but it’s not your reason for being.
Your reason for being is to be loved. God created us to love us. We are here to receive that love. What we do with that love is what comes next.
So it’s certainly a worthy effort to reflect on your calling and your purpose. After all…it’s not realistic to float on the lake forever! But the deeds you do should grow out of your existence as a child of God, not be a condition of it. In other words, we aren’t loved by God because we do good things; but rather, experiencing God’s unconditional love makes us want to share and spread that love through our words and deeds.
So begin each day with this discovery—”I was created to be loved by God!” And see where the day takes you from there.