O Me! O Life!
I recently read Walt Whitman's poem "O Me! O Life!" and this particular line really stood out for me, so I jotted it down:
The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here--that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
The way I see this, the poet speaks to himself in this bit of the poem---the deepest part of him, in fact. He levels questions to his mind/ego (O Me) and his soul (O life).
"What good amid these...?" the poet asks as he searches for answers to his questions about his ultimate purpose. He seeks meaning amid the chaos of the world around him, and in his own life perhaps.
The answer comes back to him in a beautiful affirmation and exhortation. The poet's purpose is that he exists and has an identity, which means he is known if not by others, then by God.
And the poet is also told that he can find meaning in the fact that he has something to share and contribute to the betterment of the world. His "verse" will be part of the "play" that is history.
There's a wonderful passage from Psalm 8 that I think of from time to time--especially when I am trying to figure out my own purpose, and meaning:
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
In this passage, an ancient Hebrew poet writes plaintively and beautifully about a revelation that comes to him regarding God's great purposes.
Like Whitman, he has deep existential questions about life, the universe, and everything. And like Whitman, he answers his own questions with a simple statement that contains powerful knowledge.
Even though the poet acknowledges the frailty and finitude of humanity (especially when compared to the vastness and seeming impermanence of the universe around him), he realizes that God has imbued human beings with glorious purpose:
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
If you are wondering where all this is going---let me explain.
You see, I would venture a guess that there are a bunch of us out there who have our own set of questions when it comes to purpose and meaning in life. These two very different forms of poetry answer those questions in a similar way.
And this is the answer that comes back: You matter. You matter to God, and you matter to the world.
If you have been overcome by the notion that you are less-than, unlovable, messed up, broken, talentless, or you are stymied in growth and life by a host of other self-defeating and destructive thoughts... know this:
You have a purpose in this world that only you can fulfill.
No matter where you are in life's journey, or what has befallen you, also know that you have daily opportunities to make a difference in this world, and in so doing you will find meaning, which leads to hope.
So may you know all this to be true in your heart of hearts, and may the joy of this knowledge transform your life and the world around you. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.