I have a hard time prioritizing. Right now I want to: make the bed, research biblical timelines, write, nurse my baby, plan dinner, learn how to identify constellations, do a facial mask, vacuum the wood floors, practice juggling, fix my manicure, sleep, hike with the dogs, eat curried chicken salad, and figure out the Rubix Cube. But for real. With all this noise in my head, I try to sift out what I should actually do.
Do you do this, too? Amidst all the delights, sorrows, and to-do’s of this life, what are we actually supposed to be doing? My first off-the-shelf answer is the one imprinted on my heart from learning the Westminster Catechism.
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
This is such a good answer. I mean, it’s the answer. But for years I’ve struggled to understand it. What does it mean to glorify God?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
This is a good answer, too. We glorify God by doing excellent work with a good heart. In fact, think there is a lot of “doing good” involved in our redeemed purpose. But as we know by now, we are saved by grace through faith, so our good works are nice, but they just aren’t the point.
In digging for the point, I keep coming back to my favorite biblical metaphor of the Gospel: Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride (Revelation 19:7).
When we get married a lot of things change. I’m a wife now. Wifing is not a to-do list. It’s not just pillow talk, laundry, and pot roasts. I almost wish it were; I could check all my wife boxes and know that I had achieved wifely success. Instead it’s messy and complicated. It’s a whole shift of who I am. I have to constantly make tiny corrections to my little ship of love to stay in sync with my husband.
I am not his wife because I do his laundry. I do his laundry because I love him, and I’m his wife. What I do is because of who I am; it doesn’t make me who I am.
In the same way, I am a Christian not because of what I do, but because of who I am in Christ. We can use fancy words to further make this distinction: “ontology” is the study of being, and “epistemology” is the study of knowing. Being and knowing are different things. We need both!
It’s one thing to know the Gospel is true, to know how to be a wife, or to know the Church is the bride of Christ. But it is another category entirely to be redeemed by the gospel, to be a wife, and to join the Church in being the bride of Christ. One is looking at the ocean and knowing about it, the other is jumping in and swimming.
Our redeemed purpose is to know God, to be his people, and to do His work.