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The Reason for a Human Being
Every human being lives with an immense possibility, a staggering potentiality
As a young boy, I was mesmerized by treasure maps.
Holding one in my little hands meant adventure, a quest was about to begin, treasure was at the journeys end.
I can remember my brother and I making treasure maps, burning the edges of construction paper to give it that worn, old-fashioned feel. Our maps were filled with what you’d expect: pirate ships, deadly forests, secret passageways, lost mines, and always a large X at the end.
Our quests could never really begin without that X.
The Threefold Way is a little like a treasure map, helping us see where we are, where we’re going, what obstacles we’ll face, and what glories we’ll experience. But what exactly is the X? What’s the treasure at the journeys end?
We know it has something to do with union with God, but what is that exactly? What does it mean? Where are we headed? What is the end we’re living for?
The ancient Greeks developed a single word that could handle questions like these: Telos.
A telos was something’s inherent purpose, the ultimate reason for its being. It was the goal for which it was created or made. The reason for a treasure map, of course, is to lead us to the buried gold and precious stones. But what’s the reason for a human being? What’s our telos? Why do we go on the journey?
My early answer to those questions, would probably have been something like getting saved and going to heaven.
But like most people who adopted that telos, I was never able to connect the life I was living with the location I was going.
The concept of “salvation as location” was always something of a mirage, the idea became so vacuous that I think I actually became agnostic for a few years.
It wouldn’t be until I discovered the work of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster that the real X began to emerge.
Richard wrote, “You see, the goal of the Christian life is not simply to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us!” Dallas said, “We are invited to make a pilgrimage – into the heart and life of God.” It turns out, I had the wrong telos.
The X was not a location, but a life.
So, what’s the life we find at the end of the Threefold Way? What’s union about? What’s our X? our telos?
To become like God.
This was the divine plan from the beginning. Every human being lives with this immense possibility, this staggering potentiality, this divine destiny. Everyone of us is created, not only to participate in divine life, but to replicate it, to become artisans of the likeness.
But, of course, we’re not created to be God; we’re created to be like God. We do not become additional members of the Trinity. We do not become omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. The distinction between Creator and creature will forever be preserved. But we do become like God — plunged into the ocean of divine life, the very same life that’s been going on forever, the eternal life that is both the source and end of all being.
All of this may sound shocking, even sacrilegious — it was for me. But, then again, what did I think Jesus meant when he said become perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect (Mt 5:48)?
Or what did I think the Apostle John was implying when he called us children of God (Jn 1:12)? Isn’t one of the obvious connections between a father and a child their likeness?
Or what did I assume Peter and Paul meant when they urged the readers of their letters to grow in godliness?7 What did I suppose godliness was?
No, our divine destiny was right in front of me the entire time, written in plain sight across the pages of the New Testament — we’re created to become “partakers of the divine nature (2 Ptr 1:4).”
We’re made for eternal life (Jn 3:16).
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