Our life here on earth is not just a bunch of random events, from womb to tomb, with no ultimate meaning. Every single one of us is in the middle of an exciting adventure. The reason this is true is because of the divine storyteller, God, who is the author of all life. This means He is the co-author of our personal story. The other co-author, of course, is each one of us.
Recently, I had to write my mom’s eulogy. How do you squeeze 92 years of living into a 10-minute talk? Is it just a series of random events and anecdotes? Certainly there were many humorous moments, and I could only discuss a handful of them. (Thankfully, the folks at the funeral Mass dutifully chuckled at the appropriate times.) It may have seemed that I was describing a series of unrelated episodes, but there was a genuine story there, too; a heroic journey. Maybe not quite as breath-taking as Tolkien’s literary masterpiece, but my mom’s story is compelling nonetheless. She grew up during the Depression, married and raised five kids on a less-than-shoestring budget, passed the values she learned from her parents and the Church on to the next generation, and shared her love and enthusiasm with countless people right up until the day she died.
When we ask the questions, “I wonder what kind of story we’re in?” or, “What is the meaning of life?” far too many people nowadays say, “There is no story,” or, “There is no meaning.”
An interesting aspect of our personal story, co-authored by God Himself, is that although we are the other co-author, we also are the main character in the tale. As such, we are living the drama, and we do not know how the final chapter ends.
But that’s OK. The protagonist never knows the ending while the story unfolds. That would take away all the excitement, joy, and yes, occasional anxiety, of the journey.
If you’re not sure how to fulfill your part as God’s co-author of your personal story, just look to the Baltimore Catechism. One of the questions and answers, written for school children to memorize, gives the simplest, most profound, and most accurate answer to the abstract question, “What is the meaning of life?” Here it is: “Question: Why did God make you? Answer: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”
That’s the perfect formula for a meaningful life. People who know and love God are the most happy and content folks in the world. And serving God requires that we help and encourage the people around us, which means we will develop close relationships with them. Those of us who have been around for many decades have come to learn that true happiness and contentment in life is not based on owning lots of things; it instead comes from having many loving relationships with other people.
Every few months, turn off all the electronic distractions, go into a quiet room, and ask yourself the question Sam asked Frodo: “I wonder what kind of story I’m in?”
With God Almighty as your co-author, you can be sure that your personal story is exciting, heroic, and ultimately triumphant.