For years, I said those words to my children every night as I tucked them into bed.
I still remind them of this from time to time.
Recently one of those children of mine introduced me to a quote from George Bernard Shaw that carries the same kind of thought, but expresses it with much greater eloquence:
This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.
Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
As much as I love that Scotsman, Douglas Adams, I must say that 42 is not the meaning of life. This Irishman, Shaw, got it right. Whatever flaws he may have had, he expresses great truth here when he tells us that laying aside petty grievances and pouring our lives out for a cause that has meaning beyond our years is reason for living.
Of course, that cause must be worthwhile. Jesus said his cause was the redemption of humankind. I have come to seek and to save that which was lost. Nice. That cause beats the tar out of any other I can imagine.
Now — more than ever — we need to resist the pull toward self-centered living and live for a meaningful purpose: the purpose of pouring out our lives for the sake of the gospel.