Last Sunday’s New York Times had in its Week in Review section a piece called “The Meaning of Fulfillment.” Good title.
First sentence: “At 66, I find myself feeling fulfilled.” Good start.
Later in the essay: “By now I’ve racked up enough achievements that I feel I can stop trying.” Hmmm.
A little later: “How does fulfillment feel? To me, it’s quite pleasant, a mixture of satiety, amusement and tenderness.” Amusement? Really?
From the final paragraphs: “I no longer feel much anticipation, but I never liked anticipation much anyway…What I do feel is a sturdy contentment, clear-eyed and rather selfish.
Perhaps what I’m really talking about is happiness rather than fulfillment—a stripped-down, sobered-up kind of happiness, suited to a diminished future…”
Wow. Is that it?
As we move toward All Saints’ Sunday and as I remember the saint of this congregation whose memorial service we shared last Sunday, I am conscious of and grateful for the ways in which a life of faith calls us to larger hopes and expectations for our lives than this writer (Emily Fox Gordon) seems to have found in hers.
There is so much more aliveness possible than what is contained in the feelings she describes, isn’t there? So much more to a sense of fulfillment, and so much more to leave behind for the sake of others. The poet Christian Wiman says, “We are each of us—every single one of us—meant to be a lens for truths we ourselves cannot see….” To live in faith is to live toward a truth that we can only dimly sense, but doing so leaves an after-image that makes meaning and blessing out of our lives. “Something of us…is saved and made available for others.”
A saint is someone who has made of their own life a lens through which others can see for their own lives strength and courage and inspiration. Some saints are well known: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela. But many saints are ordinary people: the teacher from second grade who believed in you before you could read, the nurse who helped you through a difficult treatment, the coach who trusted you with the ball, the parent who let you imagine you could be anything you wanted to be.
All of these saints will surround us on Sunday. They are the “great cloud of witnesses” to our lives, to the ways we are living into the fulfillment of their dreams for us.
Enjoy these beautiful fall days. See you Sunday—Kathi