Meaning is … not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives … True meaning has to be revealed.  It has to be “given.”

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Meaning is revealed.  It is not discovered and it surely is not calculated and plotted by us, even when we desperately desire meaning.

It is not the product of education.  It is not the vocational end we find.  It is more. It is deeper.  It is unique to each of us.  It is intimate.  The “why”‘ of our existence.  It is God-given.

But how is it revealed?

It comes out of the darkness and unknown, out of the mystery of God – before we are conceived, but a thought, an inspiration, a Divine intent.  Yet, it arrives with us, and is revealed in life.

It is revealed in each life and makes living all that life offers us critical – for it is in the ups and the downs of life, its joys and sadness, it triumph and defeat that it is revealed.

If life is fully accepted and lived a pattern of meaning comes to the fore.  And this, it time – not in an instant.

In my own case the dominant pattern was loss and its opposite.  The abandonment by a father in my infancy. Poverty.  The death of my grandparents, with whom my mother and I lived, when I was seven and eleven, respectively. The loss of a house I knew as home when I was 15.  Life relegated to public housing and its woes and struggles.  Sylvia’s sickness at 25 and death at 29. Loss, yes meaning in loss.

I was to know loss so I might comfort others.  I was to know loss so fear of loss might dissipate.  I was to know loss so that I might be free to accept life as it was presented to me and those who I served as a lawyer.  So that I might speak of truth, the kind people prefer not to see for the discomfort and fear it can generate in others.  Yes, that I might learn of God as Truth and be drawn more deeply to Truth and to God.  That I might know my independence and live free.

But not loss alone revealed meaning, for God is always compensatory.  In loss, I knew a wonderful and strong mother, a loving woman with extraordinary resolve – a woman who showed me daily love in daily sacrifice – while never saying a word about any deficit she experienced.  From her: strength and confidence to tackle life in a world of challenges and uncertainties that she, by her conduct, reduced to mysteries to be awaited and experienced.

And there was a family that welcomed me, loved me – and neighbors who did the same, and classmates who became my brothers and sisters and remain so in this long life of mine.  So many friends along they way – they, too, family.

And there was Sylvia – whose love and courage showed God in the full, showed me faith – alive, unconquerable even unto to death.  And poverty that so well reduced the material in favor of the spiritual.  And my grandparents, like my mother, who prepared me to learn from Sylvia, and know of life everlasting.

My revealed meaning?  Loss.  Loss, so I might live more abundantly and comfort others, help them, defend them.  Loss, so Christ and others might be seen and known.

See your theme, the pattern?  It is there, in your life – and in it meaning, planted before your conception.