By David Hegg
I like to read biographies of those who have made significant contributions to the history of our world, and I’m certainly not alone in this. The draw is our perception that if we could imitate some of what successful people thought and did we could enhance our lives and find success as well. Perhaps it is this almost insatiable desire to get better and do something meaningful with our time on Earth that pushes the publishing industry to provide us with an endless supply of biography.
Over the years I have noticed that there are many common themes in the lives of those we see as significant. They all were what we might call intentional people. They did things with a great deal of intentionality. To be sure, some were the beneficiaries of random circumstance, but even in these situations the fact that they were intentional in some sort of preparation allowed them to take advantage of the circumstances. As the saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Intentionality means deciding what is best and then being intentional to do it. It is demonstrated when we live life on purpose. And behind intentionality lies the conviction that our lives are heading somewhere, and we can determine – to some extent – where they end up by pursuing a particular course of thinking and acting.
The whole concept of intentionality begins very early. It seems every season of life includes some preparatory steps necessary to be successful in the next. We get all excited when a baby can hold its head up, and call the grandparents the first time she rolls over. We see these as preparatory necessities along the way to crawling, standing, walking, and entering into the normal activities of life.
If you think about it, the same type of purposeful sequences are seen in every stage of our maturity in the physical, emotional and mental arenas of life. In the world of education we know that completing a particular course of study now will allow us more options for employment in the future. The same holds true for areas ranging from financial planning and health to planting your garden and taking a vacation. In order to get where we want to be, we have to be intentional today and tomorrow and the next day.
Given the undeniable sense that our lives are heading somewhere purposeful, it is quite disconcerting to hear the continual harangue of those dedicated to scientism that the universe has no purpose, no goal, no intention. Those who have sworn allegiance to the idea that everything about us and our world can be reduced to electrons and protons have decided for us all that life cannot have a purpose since things like purpose and value can’t be accounted for by the physical processes of chemistry, biology, and physics.
But how can our desire to be better, to not only be successful but also more importantly significant, be reduced to so many subatomic particles? The truth is that it can’t be done. Every person has an immaterial side, a mind-thought-desire center that is neither physical nor explainable by purely physical means. We all know it simply because we know and feel and experience phenomena that transcend the laws of physics.
Increasingly, the literature of philosophy is filled with skepticism that our present path of holding science as infallible can take us where we want to go. We are more than a blob of tissue. Our personhood is actually what separates us from the rest of creation, and it is at the core of this personhood that we find the desire to reach our purpose and do so intentionally.
One answer to the question of personhood has stood the test of time. Augustine of Hippo put it this way, speaking about God’s intentionality in placing a desire for him at the center of our being: “You have made us for yourself, and we are restless until we find our rest in you.”
If there is no real purpose in life, our penchant for intentionality will ultimately wear us out through activity without accomplishment. But given our inner desire for progress toward some goal, it is reasonable to believe that such a goal exists, and that it is worth living our lives on purpose to reach it.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.