The Intentional Life

Last week I took some middle-school kids to a WyldLife camp. If you’ve never heard of WyldLife, it’s YoungLife for middle-school. If you’ve never heard of YoungLife, you’re missing out. So we were up in Maryland at this camp called NorthBay, and it was an incredible week. One thing camp helped me to see was the beauty in intentionality, or doing all things with purpose. YoungLife is full of intentionality, games and programs almost always have purpose to put peoples’ hearts in the right place and to illustrate different aspects of the gospel. I think these kinds of intentional things are awesome and I always find myself desiring more intentional living. So why do I always feel like I’m just stumbling through my weeks haphazardly, even when they’re full of Christ-centered activities and relationships?

When I asked one of my friends on the last day of school what their plan for Summer was, their simple response was “I’m not doing much. Just sleeping and watching Netflix.” Maybe for some of you reading this, that’s your plan for Summer too. Maybe you’re even still waking up from a nap, or maybe in a tab next to this one you have Netflix open on your computer. If so, that’s okay. But I think my friend’s plan for his Summer is a complete waste of time. If our actions don’t have meaning, then how can our lives? Maybe I feel like I’m stumbling through life because I forget to look to Jesus for strength and purpose, I neglect to have that child-like faith that Jesus talks about. There’s a reason Jesus tells us to love like kids and believe like them.

Remember when we were little, and every day was full of awe and wonder and joy and curiosity? How did we all become so lukewarm towards life? How come we live without joy and wonder, when Jesus can give us that? I want that again. I want a childlike faith again. But we don’t live in that bubble of blissful ignorance that toddlers do. When life feels like it’s falling apart, when the weight of the world is crushing, when death feels brutally close, when nights are full of tears, when sin won’t let go of our thoughts, when bitterness won’t stop eating at our hearts, when God feels lightyears away, what do we do? How can we find the beauty between all of the madness of the world?

Wow, this post just became deeper than I expected. The thing is, I can’t write about trying  to be purposeful in every day life when some days life is already impossible enough. But I really think Jesus has called us to a purpose, a dedication to Him and glorifying Him and making His Name known, that we are obligated to live out as believers. And when our lives feel like Hell, I can’t think of any other way to deal with it than to continue fighting to glorify Christ and continuing our purpose.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and again in 7:20, Paul says that we were “bought with a price,” meaning we “are not our own.” I am not my own. You are not your own. Jesus bought us back from sin and we owe Him our lives. This is a heavy heavy verse, and on my hardest days I’ve been turning to it a lot lately. I’m reminded that whatever I’m going through, I’m still called to this intentional service. Living intentionally is a crucial part of furthering our relationships with Jesus and serving Him fully, and Christ is the ultimate example of living intentionally.

In John 13, Jesus intentionally shows his love and humility to his disciples by taking on the role of a servant and washing their feet. In Matthew 8, and again in Luke 17, Jesus purposefully goes and heals lepers, people who were ignored and untouched by the rest of the world, to show that the Kingdom has no bounds or prejudices. Even when Jesus was on the cross, about to die, Jesus intentionally asks God to forgive His killers and then tells the man on the cross next to Him that he would be with Him in Heaven. Jesus did so many other things with purpose too, and He was going through insane pain and struggle. It’s not as if Jesus had a hidden agenda all the time; that’s not what intentionality is about. It’s about loving people where they’re at, and meeting their needs instead of twisting their hearts and desires so you can serve them in a way that’s convenient to you.

Here’s the thing about intentionality though; what you’re actually doing isn’t the main focus, but it’s how you’re doing those things that really matters. Let me explain. My friend works at a coffee shop down at the oceanfront and she tells me that some days, even while she’s just making coffee or cleaning up the shop, she intentionally looks for ways to be an example of Jesus. One time she complimented a girl who looked like she was having a bad day and brightened her whole afternoon because of it. She’ll look for people who aren’t satisfied with their drinks and seek something better for them. Her occupation doesn’t really matter at all, she’d be showing Christ to people in small ways no matter what she did. And I think we should too, no matter our circumstances.

Paul lives incredibly intentionally. In Philippians, Paul is writing to friends while he’s in jail. He probably expects to die in that jail cell, yet chapter 1 verse 13 says that he has made known to the other prisoners and guards who Jesus is. He’s still living with meaning while staring death in the face. We should be this intentional too, and I hardly do this on my good days, when I’m not locked in a jail cell about to die.

This Summer, I challenge you to live an intentional life, even on your worst days. Try to add meaning to your days, and try using your pain and struggles as a tool to glorify God, as a testimony to His grace and power by continuing to trust Him despite the pain. Hear me clearly: some days, the most intentionality you need is to continue pointing to Christ in your pain. I’ve been swimming through a lot of murky waters in life lately, and a lot of uncertainty clouds my view. But I can tell you first hand that glorifying Christ is the best way to get through that murkiness. We need to live in a way that nudges people towards Christ, or sometimes even shove people towards him with all our might. We’re all human though, and we can’t live perfectly intentional lives all the time. That’s okay. Just remember to look to your Creator, and in these next few months, try to make life matter.