Storytime with Amy: The Meaning of Life

When I was eleven, I pondered the purpose of existence after reading a story in a sixth grade reading textbook featuring talking food. As I recall, it took place in a fridge and involved a gang of rancid food angry about being shoved to the back and never eaten, who subsequently (I think) took out their rage on the good, non-spoiled food by kidnapping someone, possibly a female dairy product, who was then rescued.

The details of the story are a little fuzzy, much like the mold on some of the illustrated edible villains, but I do remember that as an eleven-year-old, it got me to contemplate this deep, philosophical question: does food want to be eaten?

Like, seriously, who would want to eat personified food?

Like, seriously, who would want to eat personified food?

My past experience with stories would lean toward the answer “no.” After all, in Beauty and the Beast, the furniture wants to turn back into humans, in 101 Dalmatians, the puppies don’t want to be made into a fur coat, and in Toy Story, the toys are trying to escape being thrown away and forgotten. People, animals, and personified inanimate objects all seemed to have the goal of escaping destruction. Why should food be any different? The story was wrong. The happiest foods should be the ones that have defied the odds by surviving their expiration dates, living long (and green) lives in the dark recesses of fridges and cabinets.

Except…that’s not why food was made.

Somehow, that clicked in young Amy’s mind: Food was meant to be eaten. That’s why the villain and his thugs were the rotten ones. Not because moldy, slimy, or stale things are gross…well, maybe sort of because of that. But because they are not fulfilling the purpose they were created for. That’s the way it works in all good stories.

Humans are meant to be humans, not talking candlesticks and clocks, so we cheer when Belle’s love transforms not just the Beast, but the servants too, even though they were still useful in furniture form.

Dogs are meant to…well, actually, even as a kid, I wasn’t much of an animal person, but I had a vague idea that dogs were meant to slobber, be adorable, and catch the same ball/stick over and over again (also covered in slobber). So we know fashionably furred Cruella is the villain.

Toys are meant to be played with, so we cry when we hear Jessie sing “When She Loved Me.”

Pixar, you are cruel.

Pixar, you really are cruel.

Food is meant to be eaten, so it makes sense that uneaten food would be bitter in more than one sense of the word.

A dozen years later, I’m no longer puzzling over the tragedy of spoiled milk or the joy of biting into a warm slice of pie (okay, fine, maybe I do contemplate that last one every now and then). But I do a lot of thinking about how we can live out what we are made for, which is basically the same question.

So, let me ask: What were you made for?

First, there is the catechism answer that is deeply true despite sounding cliché at times: you were made to bring glory to God.

Then there are some slightly more specific answers—some of the ways we bring glory to God. Such as: we were made to recognize and appreciate beauty, we were made for meaningful relationships, we were made to complement each other with a variety of gifts and abilities. It’s the happiness we get when a moment is perfectly full of peace, like an emotional snapshot of how things ought to be…or the twinge of loss and longing that reminds us that things here are broken, and so are we.

And, finally, there are the even smaller, zoomed-in details of what God wants to do with you specifically, what you were made for in the sense of what activities bring you joy, what gifts you can use to encourage the church, and what make you feel most like you’re home.

When I think about what I was made for, I mostly think of stories. One of them I remember as The Night of an Abundance of Muffins. It happened because I had a giant can of pumpkin and a recipe that made—I didn’t know this at the time—four dozen muffins. And I made a double batch, with two full bags of chocolate chips, in the kitchenette of a dorm lobby. Since there was only one muffin tin to be had amongst the eighty college students who lived in the dorm, it was a slow process…but great for chatting with everyone who passed by.

I feel like half of the pictures of me from college are me baking things.

I feel like half of the pictures of me from college are me baking things.

To my left was a pile of homework that occasionally got worked on, and to my right was a deck of worn-out cards that were dealt into a few games of Euchre, and over in the corner was a friend of mine covertly melting wax in the dorm microwave to make a seal on a letter for a code war we had going on (I am absolutely not kidding…my idyllic scenes are always injected with a little weirdness). And everywhere, there were muffins. An abundance of muffins.

I sat there for hours, baking and laughing and having wonderful conversations with wonderful people and giving out warm, gooey muffins to everyone who passed by, whether I knew them or not. Everyone who entered that lobby left a little happier, and the ones who stayed the longest, who talked and argued and played cards with me, were even happier than the ones who just got a free late-night snack. And no matter how many people came by, there were always enough muffins to give away.

That, my friends, is what I was made for.

I’m telling you all of this because I think sometimes we need a little more focus. We need to distinguish between the tasks we do just to get by and the ones we were made for. We need to appreciate the moments, even the little moments, that remind us of the goodness and glory of God. We need a little less stress and a little more joy, not by cramming our lives full of more activities and more opportunities, but by seeing purpose and design in the mundane things we’re part of right now.

Think about it for a while. Right now. Just pause and ask yourself “What was I made for?”

And, if a story comes to mind, feel free to share it in the comments section. (I am also made to love and collect stories, so you’d be helping me with my purpose too.)

4 comments

  1. when i saw “inside out” with a good friend, we were both crying towards the end, and we held hands so hard that i lost feeling in two of my fingers. then when she dropped me off at my car, we sat in her car laughing uncontrollably and shouting “core memory!” for a solid 10 or 15 minutes. it felt absolutely ridiculous, but it was perfect. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s