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Step 1 in Designing a Meaningful Life: Start Where You Are

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“God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him, when I got my act together, He gave me a fresh start…
– Psalm 18:20, The Message

Step 1 – Start Where You Are

Last week I talked about how the beautiful Butchart Gardens began as a gravel pit and became a place of beauty visited year-round by people from all over the world. I used it as a metaphor for us. At times we might feel as though our lives are a huge gravel pit. Yet with vision and design, we can turn it into a meaningful life.

Here is Step 1 of that process.

Whether constructing a sunken garden or building a house, we begin by evaluating what we have to work with.

What do I have and what do I need?

I was involved in building three homes. Each required not only construction plans for the house, but also an adequate plot of land, lot preparation and, after construction, landscaping. When it all comes together it forms a unique beauty all its own.

When examining the steps involved in building a new home, there are many commonalities we can apply. It takes a desire and then a vision, an architect to help in the design, a cost analysis in time, money and materials, a plan of action, motivation, and commitment.

But where do we begin?

We begin by reflecting who we are right now.

  • What is currently happening in your life?
  • What new information is needed to make a meaningful change?
  • What is involved in putting adequate time and finances in place?
  • What can I expect from the result?
  • And even more important, what do I believe about my capability to accomplish these things?

We can make all the plans in the world, but if we aren’t prepared to follow through, our plans just become another exercise in futility or wishful thinking.

What do you believe and why?

Our beliefs influence every aspect of living – the choices we make, the short-and long-term consequences of those decisions, the people we hang out with, and the overall lifestyle we choose. Perhaps you never considered how important this is.

A belief is something you accept as truth – it is a state of mind.

When you have thought through and made a judgment about its validity you feel confident to act on it. It involves your attitude, opinions, and ideas as well as your values and principles.

Principles take those valued beliefs and turn them into the foundation for how we act.

How would you define your beliefs?

What value do you give them? Core beliefs are often acquired haphazardly as we grow up. Many are some versions of the beliefs held by parents and friends, which we were taught as children. As adults we rarely take the time to examine or question what we believe and why.

And yet, it is those deep core beliefs we hold of ourselves and our world that influence how we think and respond to everything. Because they were put in place when we were too young to evaluate, they are often biased and idealistic. It is these distortions that can have serious consequences in how we live our lives.

tree of lifeTo survive as human beings, we need to believe in something greater than ourselves.

We need God. Christianity is the only religion in the world that offers us the free gift of salvation, grace and love. We can’t earn it – we can’t work hard enough for it – it is a gift, extended to us through the death of God’s son, Jesus, on the cross. Within that gift is a love that can transform our hearts and minds. It is where we learn how to live.

In his book, A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson writes why “I must believe in God… belief in God makes me a better person than I would be otherwise. Without God, mankind quickly degenerates into the subhuman.”

“Man without God is a doomed creature. The history of the 20th century proves the view that as the vision of God fades, we first become mere clever monkeys; then we exterminate one another. While it is a terrifying prospect, the restoration of that vision of God can arrest it. Society as a whole will be less self-destructive if it stands in awe of moral rules which cannot be changed at the whim of congresses or parliaments or central committees, but which owe their authority to God. Only a belief in God will make society decent, but we do not believe in God for that reason. Purely social religions are the route to idolatry. We must truly believe. It is part of our struggle to be human. But in this struggle, God himself will help us.”

If you have never given much thought to what you believe and why, this is a good time to do so. Changing your focus includes evaluating your beliefs, principles, and values.

What kind of life do you want to create?

When we are young, we can’t wait to take the reins of life and do what we want to do. By middle age, we start making excuses for our bad choices and totally deny our lack of personal responsibility. And when we become senior citizens, we can’t wait to get off the work train, sit back and enjoy our entitlements.

Then life comes along and teaches us some hard lessons. There are consequences that we hadn’t thought about. Sometimes, we learn our lessons quickly before the consequences are not so severe.  Other times, it takes a lifetime to finally understand that we can’t just do whatever we feel like doing – even when the culture of the day says it is okay.

As I reflect on the world around me, I see a world going faster and faster, demanding more and more of our time. I watch as people’s lives begin to unravel.

For many “God” is something we create instead of the God who created us.

Lack of time leads to shortcuts, which then leads to errors and excuses. Unchecked, we start the blame game, denial, and subtle lies.

While it may be considered normal in today’s world to get away with something, there is a dark side to that kind of thinking and acting. There is an arrogance as well as a sense of entitlement that has become pervasive today. As technology expands everything, there seems to be a bolder “so what” attitude.

What kind of life do you want to live?

What do you want to be known for?

What values have you adopted and put into practice?

Are they chosen for their potential long term good?

When we know ourselves and know what we would like to accomplish, we can stop doing things that waste our time and energy and begin making plans to bring that about. This is important as the first step in creating a new landscaping design for our lives.

So, as we begin this first step in developing a new focus, consider the following:

  1. What kind of life do I want to live?
  2. What do I want to be known for?
  3. What values have I adopted and put into practice? Have I chosen them after thoughtful consideration? How will they affect my life and the lives of others?
  4. What values have I initiated in the past? Did they harm my self-worth? Where they destructive in my relationships and the choices I made? Think about meaningful values you want to put in place.

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