This is the life I’ve got. This is it.
Every day I seek meaning. I think you do too, even if you don’t realize it. I long for significance, I long for glory, I long for weighty importance. I want my life to have gravity. I even want those stained and tired, wearisome and bedraggled moments of life to mean something. Because life is not just pregnancy announcements, family reunions, and college graduations. It’s not just births, deaths, or holidays. Most of my life, if I am honest, is quite mundane. My life is rolling over to turn off the alarm in the quiet, dark morning and choosing to make my feet hit the floor. My life is brushing my teeth in my already tooth-paste-stained sweatshirt. My life is eating my granola bar on the cold drive to work and typing passwords into my e-mail account again and again and again. I could make this sound pretty and say my life is about relishing the moment with my kids and inspiring students to think– which I try to do. But life is really more raw and mundane than that– it’s changing diapers and cooking food and making small talk.
But Jesus promised me Life, and Life to the full! This surely must mean I must go elsewhere to seek Him, outside of this often burdensome and expected routine. I must seek him in a homeless shelter, right? Maybe in a service trip to Africa? Or if not in these places, maybe a community of friends? In the love of family? Surely, I must go outside of this life– outside, if I am really honest, of me.
But this is what God has been telling me: If I want to find Him, if I want to find meaning, I’ve got to find it in me. I’ve got to listen to my life, because my life is how God speaks to me. Even the boring and burdensome parts. This is the only life I have. The life you are living right now is the only life you have– and God is speaking in it. I discover Him by discovering myself. You will discover Him by discovering yourself. The Catholic monk Thomas Merton writes, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.” The call to be “born again” for the Christian is not a call to abandon the life you’ve been given; it’s a call to fulfill who you already are. But so many of us have sought meaning outside of ourselves that we have no idea who that person actually is.
I hear a cynical and sinister whisper. “Why, these thoughts are quite fitting for a narcissist like yourself. It figures you would make the story all go back to you.” But I choose to reject this voice. And here is one reason why:
When I hold Ellie in church and I hear how we must all shed our old skin to become new creations, I think: “Not her!” And I thought I heard God whisper, “You’re right.” No one has told Ellie who she ought to be yet. She has not heard again and again from the church and other places that she must become someone else in order to be significant. Being “born again” for Ellie will be the moment she remembers who she actually was in the first place. “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
This is more than the vapid “Love yourself” and “Know yourself” mantras. Because we cannot love ourselves without loving God, because we cannot know ourselves without knowing God. And the only way I can know God is to seek Him in this life, in every single second of this tedious, grace-filled life. And I mean. every. second. Because He’s present, now, in this breath. And this one. And this one. And to ignore this breath in anticipation of the surely significant event of tomorrow is to miss an opportunity to exist in God’s reality now.
Merton writes: “At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us… It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”
The gate of heaven is in my life. In this moment. It can only be found within you, within the life you’ve been given.
So I’m going to write about the life I have, because it’s the only gate through which I can enter the Kingdom.