Your Purpose is What You See

As recorded by J.D. Bentley April 25th, 2018
Your Purpose is What You See

Put aside all the abstract, high-minded, philosophizing ideas about what your purpose is. Don’t make the mistake that self-help gurus force people into, the one of considering their "passion"—the work that makes them happy in the most superficial sense—as their purpose.

Your purpose is to repent. St. Isaac the Syrian wrote:

"This life has been given you for repentance. Do not waste it on other things."

Repentance is what we accomplish through our toil and hard work, and it is why Adam was gifted with toil after the Fall. Repentance is often defined in negative juridical terms. To repent is to admit failure and inflict some self-punishment to account for it. But that’s not real repentance. Repentance is a positive action, a moving forward in hope. As Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, "[Repentance] is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see."

To repent is to awaken. Repentance was to the church fathers and the history of the church what "taking the red pill" is today. Repentance was associated with nepsis, a Greek word meaning "wakefulness". It presumes that we live in a drugged stupor, a numb haze, ignorant of the actual reality that bears down on us all. The neptic man, then, is the man for whom this reality has become evident. He is now sober. He is the Prodigal Son who, as he repented, "came to himself" as Luke 15:17 tells us.

To be wakeful is to be vigilant, diligent, watchful. You cannot become aware of reality without beginning to see and to look for the truth and the nature behind everything encountered. You begin to notice the errant and evil thoughts that hinder you. You begin to see the importance of what stands immediately before you. What does it mean to be watchful? We, as finite beings, are limited by space and time, so the best we can do to become watchful is to truly absorb "here" and "now", which, at the deepest level, are the only two things we actually have. The past exists only as present memory, the future exists only as present anticipation. Neither are real to us. What is real is "here" and "now". What is real is what we see and experience "here" and "now".

To be watchful means being aware of that fact. Not blinded with our nostalgia or regret for what lies dead behind us, nor dreadful or anxious or fanciful about what lies ahead of us. Being watchful means taking all we are given. No more, no less.

A neptic man is gathered into the here and now. He seizes what in Greek is called the kairos, the decisive moment of opportunity, which can only ever be seized in the present.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis rightly tells us that man is called by God to attend primarily to two things: eternity and the present. The present is the point at which time touches eternity.

"Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered."

Nothing you can ever do or be happens outside of the present moment. If you do not take action now, when will you take it? You cannot take it yesterday and you cannot take it tomorrow. Only now.

Paul Evdokimov says this:

"The hour through which you are at present passing, the man whom you meet here and now, the task on which you are engaged at this very moment—these are always the most important in your whole life."

Your purpose is not an exciting optimistic philosophy about your glorious future. It is the dullness or the challenge of what you see, of what is directly in front of you right now.

These are the raw materials on which your repentance, on which your life, on which your legacy, on which your purpose will be ultimately built.

If you are not intentional and industrious with what you have been given, what hope do you have to become anything more.

I say this to myself above all others.