To be or not to be... or perhaps just to pretend to be... a Christian...?
There is a very old saying from Cicero in ancient Rome: "Esse quam videri.
" It means: "To be, rather than to seem
." That's a good place to begin, since we are all looking to actually BE what we want (and ought
) to be, right? We appear to the world one way, but on the inside... that is not so much really who we are. So, how can we actually do it?
Well, I'm here to tell you that I've cracked the code, and I want to share with you my big discovery of finding true happiness and fulfillment (spoiler alert: it is definitely about God). Full disclosure: my discovery is hardly novel. Many others have made this discovery in their own way, but I was too obtuse to learn from them and had to get there the hard way.
I've been working on a lot of personal things for quite a while now-- well, for virtually my entire life, I suppose. So many concepts and ideas have come and gone. So much thought and discussion put into it all. Now, I'm putting many of these things together (like puzzle pieces that finally fit) and I'm seeing progress like never before.
The past two years or so have been some of the most momentous of my life-- both on a personal and professional level. It really began in earnest when I made a dramatic change in my career (see here for details
); and then it took off like a turbo-charged rocket from there.
I put my faith in God and moved forward in the manner I believed He wanted me to. I prayed more often and with more intensity than I ever had before - and I tried very hard to listen for answers... and I actually heard (and saw) some. The main lessons? Live today. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Trust in the Lord. Love. Love. Love.
"There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path."
Without trying to sound overly dramatic, I see now that God has brought me out of the wilderness and shown me, finally, that right path. I've been on the path before, but I wasn't sure of it, and I continually stepped off of it and got tangled up in the trees. Now it's a matter of knowing how
to get to where I am going. It doesn't guarantee that I will get there, and it doesn't mean that I don't still have a long way to go. It just means I know how... and that means everything to a weary traveler who has finally seen the real way home.
I've learned that His promises are real, and that He will always be there for me, if only I trust and do my part. The tricky part of trying to live the old saying "God helps those who help themselves" is how exactly is one to properly "help" oneself? The answer is deceptively simple: always pray on it and listen to your conscience (aka, God's voice within you). Always. Without exception.
The tangible/physical results are important, but not nearly so much as the intangible/spiritual results. My mood and demeanor are more stable than ever. My mental serenity is at record levels, even as many things go wrong around me. My focus on the really important things is keener than ever. For example, I can still enjoy relatively meaningless things like football without becoming lost and in a funk for days when my team loses. (Yes, it hurt for a bit when my beloved Broncos flamed out in the playoffs-- but only a short while. That scenario would have had the "old me" in a dark rage for days- if not weeks.) I am still FAR from anything remotely resembling "perfect," but I am a vastly improved version of myself that now knows how to get even better.
So, on to the meat of it. While the next moment is certainly important to consider, it must be kept in its proper place in relation to this
is what we have. Now
is all that is given to any of us. Now
is all that matters. Now
is where yesterday and tomorrow are linked. This is true because Now
is where God truly is.
~~ "He who lives in the present lives in eternity." --Ludwig Wittgenstein ~~
If you have read my writings before, you probably know that I am obsessed with time in general-- and lately, with NOW in specific. (Here is a post from two years ago
that illustrates my fascination as well as anything.)
For years, I talked the talk about trusting in God and living today-- but now I have actually started doing it... and it works. Cicero was 100 percent correct; it is far, far better to be
than to seem
. It feels very good to know that I am really being
a Christian. Not that I wasn't before, but it was a much different feeling on the inside. All it took was actually trying to do the things I had been professing for years; i.e., doing what I ought
to do. Yep- it turns out that we are truly happiest when we are doing what we should be doing.
~~ "Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected." --George Washington ~~
By the way, another huge part of this whole thing is that I have managed to really get a handle on exactly what this "Love" thing truly is (and is not). That came about by lots and lots of prayer, and two (or maybe three) careful readings of C.S. Lewis' absolutely delightful short book, "The Four Loves
Also very important to note: not everyone gets to be "intoxicated" by God's presence. In fact, most of us will never really get to that state. The best we can do is continue on, seeking Him and trying to do His will as we find Him here and there in our daily life. We can often go through darkness and long periods of spiritual "emptiness," and it is in those times that we have to keep our Faith light shining the brightest. The single best example of this is in the fact that Mother Teresa's "dark night"
lasted almost 50 years. Yeah.
~~ "Est autem fides credere quod nondum vides; cuius fidei merces est videre quod credis." ("Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.")
--Saint Augustine ~~
I'll try to sum up here with a quick formula:
- Get close to Him by reading good things (lectio divina), saying good things, and doing good things. Don't just take it from me: "Draw near to God and God will draw near to you." --James 4:8
- Remember that "ex nilhilo nihil fit" (nothing comes from nothing). You came from something and from Someone. If you do nothing for your own spirit, then that is likely the return you will get.
- Be aware that good begets more good, and bad begets more bad. Choose your actions, words, and thoughts carefully. Emerson said it best: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
- Bottom line: everything tastes better when you are really hungry- so be hungry for God's Word and will. The amazing paradox with this hunger metaphor in relation to God is that the more you partake, the hungrier you get, and the more satisfaction there is in even a single morsel.
Let's close with this verse from Isaiah. It begins with the eternal question: why does God let us stray from Him? The age old "free will" question. The verse then shows that God is hidden from us while we are not doing His will... and it ends with the obvious (and awesome) statement that we are His creations and things just don't go right when we forget that and behave accordingly (no matter how super-important and amazing we think we are on our own).
Isaiah 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Amen and AMEN!
God bless y'all!