I was a junior in college the first time that I read Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. The Young Adult group out of the church that I attended at the time jumped on the 40 days of purpose bandwagon and committed to changing our twentysomething, chaotic lives (and mine at least, was certainly chaotic). As a group, we often discussed Warren’s short chapters over coffee in the evening, frequenting a nearby cafe which offered a basket of fresh, hot bread for only $2. Absolutely heaven for us struggling college students!
As to be expected, we didn’t make it very far in the book. We had other pressing matters such as school, dating, and other gossip, that dominated our time and eventually distracted us from completing the task at hand. Retiring the book from the group, I picked it up again several months later while I was in Argentina. And this time, unhindered by bread or the opposite sex, I finished it.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much of what it said. Sorry Mr. Warren! But the one idea that has stuck with me all of these years is the notion that I was created to bring pleasure to God. More specifically, I learned that regardless of what I do in life, my chief purpose is to worship God.
For those of us who come from a highly churched background, we probably see the word worship and instantly think about music and singing as we have been conditioned to believe that this is what worship means. The way that we express worship can include music, but in actuality, the essence of worship is about ascribing to God the worth that he is due. In worship, we express to God our sincerest appreciation for who He is and what He has made. Consider the words of King David (worshipper par excellence) in Ps. 8.3 – 8:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas (NASB).”
As I read David’s words, I get a sense that he genuinely loved and appreciated God’s creation. David drew pleasure in watching the birds of the air fly across the sky and took great joy in seeing the sun set in that same sky, reflecting beautifully over the Jordan River. But I wonder if he ever expressed to God his appreciation for humanity, and more specifically, the diversity so deeply embedded in it. I also wonder if we ever do the same.
I wonder if we, as believers, ever stop to reflect back to God our awe for diversity. Do we ever stop to wholly appreciate the differences in culture, skin color, language, hair texture, gender, and so much more that are so vast across the human fabric? Do we see beauty and value (aside from commodified value) in each other’s experiences and worldview? Or are we quick to devalue and disregard anyone who is not like us, or who doesn’t support ideas that we are most comfortable with?
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that far too often the latter is the case. In every nation and place across the world, people cherish and value the things that are reflective of their own culture, their own ideas, their own experiences and ‘otherize’ the culture, ideas, and experiences of others. This otherization often leads to acts of violence and oppression, especially when power and resources are factored into the equation. And in the end, we end up destroying this magnificent, intricate human tapestry.
God made the oceans, the rivers, the birds, and the trees. And He also made you and me – so complex and different from one another and its absolutely beautiful. Valuing this rich diversity is an act of worship. Cherishing our unique differences, instead of exploiting them, shows that we see wisdom in God’s handiwork. Like David, we ought to break out in song expressing the utmost gratitude and reverence over God’s ingenuity. To do anything less is the antithesis of what God has created us to do: worship Him.