MANY of us are familiar with cartoons that show someone climbing a mountain to reach a Great Thinker in order to ask him the purpose of life. Amusing as the cartoons are, understanding our purpose in life isn't trivial. We each want to feel that to at least a degree we're able to make a contribution. Christ Jesus understood this very well, and his own life is proof of what one individual can accomplish. His purpose in life grew out of his understanding of his relationship to God -- through seeing that he was in fact God's son. As such, he listened to God's guidance and then acted accordingly. He urged his followers to do the same.
At first, being God-centered might seem an impractical way to learn our purpose in life. This is particularly true if we're used to thinking of ourselves in material terms -- as individual mortal beings who have limited abilities, resources, and opportunities.
But if we are willing to consider the possibility that man is actually spiritual -- and that this is our genuine identity -- our prospects improve substantially. Jesus put it in terms of gifts God bestows on His children. Speaking in Matthew's Gospel of human parents' desire to do the best they could for their offspring, he went on, ``How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?''
Each of us has the ability to express intelligence, wisdom, joy, love, purity, and other elements of the inheritance we get from our divine Father. And they have a practical effect on our lives. Intelligence and wisdom are vital for good decisionmaking, for instance.
Speaking of man's infinite possibilities, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.'' This ``boundless basis'' is probably best expressed in the thought of God as Love. In spiritual terms, our real purpose is to express God, Love -- whether we do this by being an excellent mechanic, a fine artist, an efficient secretary, or an alert sales clerk. In every form of work, we have the opportunity to express love for God and man, if we are willing to look for it.
Sometimes the way Love relates to what we most long to do is not clear. Or we may not be at all sure of what our purpose is! This is where prayer will help us. Love is tender, patient, and accessible even in its human forms. In its divine form it is all of these and more. Divine Love is omnipotent, and this can open doors that seem firmly closed. It removes limitations that might hold us back. Or it can open our thoughts to new directions, toward new opportunities.
Even if our first steps toward a more spiritual outlook are tentative, they will often help us to see ways that we can slough off flaws that have been holding us back. For instance, as we learn better to express love, we will find it easier to resist the temptation to be angry or self-righteous. A clearer sense of truth and devotion to it will make us more willing to be honest in our dealings with others.
Clearing away the elements -- the material characteristics -- that would hide our true spiritual nature is like clearing away the underbrush in a forest. The work may be sweaty and difficult, but when it is done, we begin to see the beauty of the forest and a clear route to our destination. As we eliminate the mental underbrush that would hold us back, we begin to see the freedom we have as God's children to know and fulfill our purpose, and to rise ``higher and higher from a boundless basis.''