Why are you here?
by Bethany Kaldas
‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’
~ Matthew 5:16
Before you start reading this, I want you to look around. Take note of where you are, who you are with, and how you got there. Keeping all that in mind, I want you to ask yourself, ‘Why am I here?’
People spend a lot of time contemplating the meaning of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of them—and if you’re claiming not to be then I suspect you need your humanity revoked. But asking that huge, impersonal question of ‘Why are we (as in, all things that exist) here?’ has often proven to be a case of biting off a bit more than we can chew. Just a bit. And this has generated a lot of existential angst in those who find themselves pondering the meaning of all that is.
When faced with questions too big to swallow, it can help to ask smaller questions first. When I urged you to ask yourself why you are here, I did not want you to contemplate the meaning of your personal existence. Even this is a question possibly too big to be grappled with at the moment. I meant quite literally, why are you right here, right now?
I’m sure you can generate a wealth of obvious answers to those questions. If you’re reading this on the train, for instance, you’re here because you have somewhere to go. You’re surrounded by the people around you because they too have somewhere to go, but otherwise have no connection to you. I think I can safely say that (unless something extremely strange is happening in your life), you are fairly confident in the reason for why you are literally here, be it by choice or by chance. It is not a question we tend to give much thought to.
But is it possible that the key to that big, ultimate question of why we are here is rooted in the simple, mundane question of why you are here, in the most basic sense? Is it possible that there’s more to why you are where you are, with the people you are with (or alone, for that matter), than mere coincidence?
Let’s talk about a Biblical story we should all be familiar with: the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-40). This is a seemingly random encounter with enormous consequences. And it does seem quite random. The Samaritan woman had been gathering water (specifically at an hour when she assumed she would meet no-one) and Jesus had been on His way to Judea and was only passing through Samaria.
If you had asked the woman at the well, ‘Why are you here?’, I can imagine she probably would have said something about needing water before telling you to leave her alone. She had no idea the true purpose God was working through her apparently ordinary daily chore. In that one seemingly insignificant moment, everything changed. She saw the Saviour. She helped countless others to see Him too. And even to this day, her story aids us in meeting Him in our lives.
…But that’s different to your life, right? After all, the whole reason that moment held such magnitude was because she had met Christand not just anyoneat that well. If you’re wondering what this really has to do with you, I think Fr Alexander Schmemann expresses it perfectly in his book, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha:
‘Christian love is the “possible impossibility” to see Christ in another man, whoever he is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a “good deed” or an exercise in philanthropy, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself.’
When you consider this, can you ever believe that any encounter you have is truly random? That any moment you experience is merely a transition from one more important event to another? That anyone or anything in your life, anything that the world has told you is insignificant and unworthy of attention, is really without purpose
C. S. Lewis addresses this also when he speaks of friendship in The Four Loves:
‘But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.’
There is nobody and nothing in your life who is there purely by chance, not in God’s eyes. Christ does not encounter people by accident—He always does so with purpose. And when you encounter someone in your life—anyone, whether they’re a total stranger or someone you’ve known your whole life—you are meeting Christ. And they are meeting Him too—in you.
So I want you to take a moment. Look around you again. Consider where you are, who you are with, and how you got there.
Why are you here? You are here to show Christ to the world. And maybe the answer to that simple, basic question holds the key to that massive, ultimate question. If you are here to show Christ to the world, maybe the world is here to show Christ to you.
‘Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’’
~ Matthew 25:37-40