BY CHAD BIRD
“The two most important days in your life
are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.”
We have at least one thing going for us: we know the first of these two days —our birthday. Apart from our nativity, there would be no first-steps day, no first-kiss day, no first-job day. You must be before you can do. The day you are born kickstarts what you will do with the rest of your life.
But then comes the tougher question: what exactly will you do with the rest of your life? And the deeper question: Why were you born? What is your purpose in life?
Lurking beneath every major decision we make is this question.
~ Is the purpose of my life to be a physicist or a forklift driver?
~ Is the purpose of my life to let Tom or Vincent put a ring on my finger?
~ Why am I here—to follow the beaten path or to take the road less traveled?
Even when we’re not aware of it, this foundational question pulses through every decision we make.
After all, it is the most important of the two most important days in our lives, isn’t it? We had no say-so on the day we were born. It just happened to us; we didn’t decide to be conceived; a birthday is not an accomplishment. But the why of our existence—that is up to us to determine. We must find our place in this world, achieve our dreams, fulfill our life’s quest.
This is our burden. And it is a decidedly heavy burden because it affects the assessment of our self-worth. In America, this is largely determined by comparing ourselves to others. Here size matters: the size of our home, the size of our banking account, the size of our waistline. And our ego. The value of our lives is decided by how much we have accomplished and amassed. And because there’s always someone who has more, who has achieved more, we always feel deficient.
Therefore, we must take it up a notch. We must try harder. Otherwise, the why of our existence ends up becoming an accusatory question: why haven’t you done more? Why haven’t you tried harder? We huff and puff on the treadmill of more, more, more, all the while thinking that eventually the whys will be silenced when we have accomplished enough. But that day of enough never dawns.
Perhaps we're doing it all wrong.
Here is a revolutionary truth—a truth that is liberation itself: you were not born to achieve. You were born to receive. That is the why, the reason, for your existence. Your primary purpose in life is not doing something, but having something done to you, for you, out of love.
Why are you here? God did not create you because he needed you to do something. In the creation accounts of the ancient pagans, the exact opposite was true. The Babylonian gods created humanity to serve them. That was the why of people’s existence. They existed to be doers, especially doers for the deities. Action alone gave meaning to their existence.
Not so in our Lord’s ordering of creation. Our Father created you in order that he might have someone to give to, to bless, to love, to nurture, to save, to give himself to. That’s why you’re here. God created you in order that he might be your Father in Jesus Christ, a temple for his Holy Spirit. He made you to be his own. Whether you’re male or female, short or tall, rich or poor, God formed you all the same: to be a perfect receptacle for his blessings. To be in the image of God means to be precisely shaped for receiving God's gifts.
Of course, you will do various things in this life. There are good works to be done. Some do more, some less. But what you do does not define who you are. You may or may not earn a degree. You may or may not have children. At your funeral the whole country may shed tears or only a few close friends. Your entire biography might require volumes or be squeezed into a few boring paragraphs. Who cares? None of that defines your personhood, who you are, why you are here.
The two most important days in your life
are the day you are born
and the day you find out that you were born
to be our Father’s child in Christ Jesus.
That is your identity; and that is your freedom. You are free to do without worrying about whether you do enough. The enough has already been done by Christ. In him the Father recreated you as perfect. And in Christ that’s who you will always remain.
We never really outgrow the identity we had on our birthday. That day just happened to us; it was not an accomplishment but a gift from God. So it is every day. Every day we awake is like leaving the womb: here is a world created by our Father, redeemed by his Son, and enlivened by his Spirit. It is a world we inhabit as gifted children not trophied adults. Neither our successes or failures, our marriage or divorce, our résumé or bankruptcy, our deeds or misdeeds define us.
Christ defines us. He is the why of our existence. He is all gift, and we are all gifted in him.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.