“What’s the meaning of life?”
The question floated my way from the back seat. It was lobbed to me by my sole passenger whom I had just retrieved from a birthday party at Lil’ Ninjas. He’s 8. I thought he was being silly.
“What do you think the meaning of life is?” I tossed back with a little wink in the rear-view mirror.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “That’s why I asked you.”
He was serious. Apparently he really wanted to know.
I thought for a minute. I might have even hummed an audible “hmmmm….” as I considered the best way to answer such a grand question from a little kid who apparently was thinking big thoughts.
How do you answer a question like that? For an eight-year-old? For myself?
Big language won’t work – even if you have the answer. Answers to kids need to be concise, without confusing or flowery language to mask any lack of knowledge on the subject. They see right through a good stall. And, answers can’t be layered with philosophical or theological verbiage. Such tactics that often work with adults only garner more questions with kids. Answers need to be simple. Simple and true in order for them to land.
As I considered his question: What is the meaning of life?, I wondered – can it be boiled down to a simple statement that could satisfy the curiosity of a child? The curiosity of the adult to whom the question was asked? Though my thoughts raced through iterations of explanations, they kept traveling back to love. To love … and to people. Because it seems to me that God started it all as an outflow of love. (And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13)
But before I could start down the road and try to say out loud what I think about the meaning of life… the kid did.
“I think I know,” he began after his own careful contemplation of the question he had asked. “I think the meaning of life is fun.”
“Okay,” I nod. Then prod, “What is fun to you?”
“Well,” he paused – maybe running through his own mental iterations to see if his conclusion rings true. Then he confidently replied, “Fun is spending time with cousins.”
His conclusion is the closest definition of love this side of heaven. When he’s with cousins he can barely contain the love he feels for them and the happiness he experiences when he’s with them.
Love and people.
“Yes,” he continued. “Cousins and Hawaiian Falls.”
“You know that thing that goes around the water park where you float?”
“The lazy river?” I offer.
“Yes – the Lazy River. It moves you along without you having to try. Yeah – that and cousins is what’s fun. And I think that’s the meaning of life.”
Well – there you have it. The meaning of life. Love. People. Carried along. (Sidenote: not only did Jack enjoy the Lazy River because the current moves you along, but also because his friend Charlie was riding alongside.) Living life alongside, not on our own strength, but through the One who first loved us. It may be a theological stretch, but it sure had me thinking.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
p.s. A special shout-out thanks to the outpouring of love I received yesterday as so many of you let me reach out for support and prayer on a couple of things. I was overwhelmed by the support (during a media-infused day) and the kind words through texts and emails. You know who you are :)