Purpose: A Prologue

In all of my reading, I have not come across anything quite so sensible as the first statement of the **Westminster Catechism:

“The chief end of man[kind] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

At a time in my life when I felt unsure of my path and stressed out about work and indifferent or uneasy in friendships and wearied by the daily grind, I re-watched A River Runs Through It. At the start of the film, the narrator recites this part of the Westminster Catechism while describing his upbringing in Montana by his father, a Presbyterian minister, who taught him to fly fish.

Even though I’d heard the phrase before, this time the line stuck with me; it latched onto my heart. I kept remembering it at random moments: while washing laundry, at a dinner party, when the copier broke down at school. I thought about it and thought about it, and I came around to thinking that the power of the phrase lies in it’s revelation of purpose. And the purpose made perfect sense to me.

“The chief end of man[kind] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,” I think when I’m rushing five minutes late to class, when I’m folding laundry, when I’m angry at a family member or let down by a friend, when I’m walking to school and the honeysuckle is blooming, when I’m weeding the yard, when I’m sipping a glass of wine while cooking dinner.

When I remember my purpose, I can zoom out of stressful and emotionally fraught situations. I can enjoy and savor beautiful moments. My purpose is not to be the perfect teacher, girlfriend, daughter, or friend. My purpose is not to shine as a writer or complete my work on time.  My purpose is to glorify God. My purpose is to enjoy God. My purpose is to glorify and enjoy forever.

I don’t think anything I’ve read before or since the Westminster Catechism has had as profound an effect on my daily living. With purpose, I can live without losing myself in the daily grind. The catechism keeps me grounded, focused, and joyful in work and play.

I write this post not to proselytize, but to establish a foundation of thinking for another question that has been plaguing me of late.

What is the purpose of education?

If my living well stems from knowing and following my purpose, then doesn’t it follow that the effectiveness of education will stem from whatever purpose drives it?

More thoughts about purpose and education in the next post Purpose and Education.

**I write as a Christian, and of course mean no offense to believers of any religion including my own. In my blog, I am making sense of my own life, and in doing so, hope that it may help others, in whatever way, make sense of theirs.

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About epdwilliams

Junior High English Teacher The Westminster Schools
This entry was posted in Education, Pearls of Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Purpose: A Prologue

  1. boadams1 says:

    Purpose of education: learning. To “draw out” what is in each of us. It’s about drawing out, not filling up. It’s about learning.

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