A few years ago, my son drew an interesting picture. I had just come home from work, and I found one of his masterpieces taped to his bedroom door. On it were two large stick figures and two small ones. The two large stick figures were circled with a line through them.
Now, I could have guessed at what the picture meant, but I might have been wrong. I could have given it personal significance (subjective meaning) but I wouldn’t have been any closer to understanding its intended meaning (objective meaning). So, I did the one thing necessary to know the true meaning of anything. I asked the author: my son.
It’s important to understand that meaning is a quality of personhood. Things don’t have meaning in and of themselves; rather, persons give things meaning. Yet, not just anyone can give something objective meaning. That’s the job of its author or creator. This is true of all meaning. Considering that I did not bring myself into existence, it is even true of my life.
After asking my son a few questions, I learned the drawing was meant to keep mom and dad out of his room during wrestling matches with his younger brother. That wasn’t going to happen!
A good example of objective meaning is language. You can view letters and words as art, such as in calligraphy, but we all understand that letters and words have intended meaning. Unless we understand the meaning attached to words, they are just funny markings and the language can’t be read. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language or computer code you’ve experienced what this is like; at first none of it makes any sense, but when someone reveals the meaning behind them, the meaning that the author intended, then the markings come alive.
What if life is the same way?
Jesus claimed to be the author of life. and, as such, he has the authority to explain the meaning of our lives. In Mark 12, he gave a simple yet profound answer to the meaning of life, saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” And “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Simply put, we were created to love and be loved. As Saint Augustine said, “The heart of man is restless until it rests in God.”
Go deeper in Andy’s new book: Thinking? Answering Life’s Five Biggest Questions.
By Andy Steiger