Today is my 51st birthday.
I can hardly believe it. I feel ... 20. Make that 25. But with bigger feet. And chubbier hips. Perhaps just a few more grey hairs.
But I feel something else, too: a little wiser. Because, if you do it right, with age comes wisdom. At least a certain amount of it.
If you do it right.
For decades, I didn't do it right. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I began to move into the general direction of any sort of rightness.
You may already know that I was firmly entrenched in the occult, in areas of pagan worship, god and goddess worship, wiccan, and other worldliness. (Search for "My Testimony" in the search window above to see a very sanitized version.) Something inside of me, something very small--like a BB pellet rolling around inside an empty tuna can--felt the wrongness of this even as the rest of me tried to assert the rightness of living wrongly. I did a really good job of squelching down that "small, still voice". So good, in fact, that many people from those old haunts (heh-heh) now accuse me of not really being in that camp in the first place.
Let me assure you, I was. Tent poles, sleeping bags and propane stove. I was not only in that camp, I'd decided to live there on a permanent vs. vacationing basis. So no fair crying, "Lisa, you were never truly one of us. You didn't get the whole wiccan thing, therefore you can't judge it." I was there, all right. I was unfortunately all too there.
Which makes it incredibly weird for me to discuss, actually, since I can truly feel both sides now. I know what it's like to believe in witchcraft, ghosts, reincarnation, UFOs and communicating with the dead--because I believed in them for so long. But now, I don't. I believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
And I know the meaning of life.
We get one chance on this earth. Many people believe this. But most people believe it's because we need to "grab all the gusto we can", or make ourselves "number one" or "find our purpose, our soulmate, our reason for existing".
They have it as wrong as I did when I believed that.
Our one chance on this earth is to choose.
To choose which side we are on.
To choose who we worship.
Make no mistake. We all worship something. If it's not the God of the Bible, it's money. Or our kids. Or our careers. Or our spouse. Or the longing for a spouse. Or sex. Or clothes. We are created to worship, and we all worship something. While you may be thinking, "I don't bow down to my Jimmy Choo's, Lisa", I can almost guarantee this: whatever you put before God--that's likely what you worship.
And I did it, too. I'm no different than anyone else.
I won't bore you with what I put before God. But trust me, I did this. There are religions that are built around putting things before God, although they do not, of course, advertise themselves as such. They draw in many unsuspecting folks, good-hearted, well-intentioned folks. Folks who are deceived, nonetheless, in putting something before the only One who deserves our worship.
This is why I am not religious.
I am a Christ-follower, a Christian. The Jesus Christ of the Bible condemned religion. He didn't want people following man-made doctrine, as anything man-made will always be faulty.
Following God will never be faulty.
Let me make one thing clear to those who may not know this: the entire time I was immersed in the occult (which literally means "hidden". It's appeal is the supernatural, something exciting, hidden from view. I soon learned that the most exciting, supernatural stuff ever recorded is written in the Bible. And it's more interesting than any seance could ever be), I never thought I was serving the enemy of my soul. I loved God. I still do. But the God I serve now is the true God. You see, I was doing what billions of people--trillions, if you count those no longer living--have done since Adam and Eve: I was making a god to suit my own tastes. I created in my mind a god of goodness, mercy, love, love, love, kindness, dark-chocolate, hot salted caramel macchiatos, etc. In other words, the god I loved so much was good. And the God of the Bible is good, too. Truly good, in ways we mere humans--His creations--can never, ever hope to be. One hundred percent good, one hundred percent of the time.
BUT--and this is a big BUT--He is more than that. In addition to goodness, God is also Just. And Holy. And Righteous.
That's the part I sort of, you know, didn't want to face.
So I didn't.
I simply did not.
Instead, I created a god of my own making: all good, all loving, all the time. No justice, because then I'd have to think about what I was doing in order to please Him. No Holiness, because then I'd have to change my belief system in order to please Him. No Righteousness, because I'd have to do too much soul-searching and admitting I'd been wrong for 45 years and ew--that felt too much like humility to me, and hey, MY god would love me no matter what I did, right?
What I was doing was practicing idolatry.
I created a god to suit me, and worshipped it instead of the God revealed to us in His Word.
It's so simple.
God made it simple for us. Not easy, perhaps, especially if you are proud of who you are, and don't believe you need improvement, but simple nonetheless.
He wrote down everything He wants us to know in a Book. It's His love letter to us. His "Owner's Manual" to us. His progressive revelation to us, His creations. He made it simple for us to understand what He wants from us. Simple. Not easy, perhaps--in the same way we all know we should eat kale and carrots, and cut out our 6 cups of coffee each day--but not complicated, either.
Just read the Book. The Book contains the meaning of life. It details for you the lives of people who were there at the time Jesus was. It gives you all you need to know in the same fashion that the Owner's Manual of your Toyota gives you all the information you need to know to maintain your Highlander or Camry.
Just. Read. The Book.
Easy. IF you humble yourself enough to admit that you really don't know it all. That perhaps Marianne Williamson doesn't have all the knowledge in the world about spirituality, nor does Oprah. Easy, if you admit to yourself that you know, somewhere deep inside of you, that there must be more to life than owning a nice car, getting a bigger, more well-furnished home, and donating to charity to make yourself feel spiritual. Even Christian charities. For that extra-spiritual feeling.
There must be more.
And there is.
The older one gets, the more that nagging feeling persists. Once you realize that some dreams are never, ever going to come true for you (like becoming a fairy-princess-ballerina-veterinarian, or climbing Mt. Everest, or becoming a millionaire), many of us go into a second-childhood, often called a Midlife Crisis. This isn't always a bad thing, if it propels you in the correct direction, the direction of actual truth. It's not necessarily a bad thing to buy a new red Corvette, or get a facelift. (Blerg.) But it's useless if your quest for the truth stops with these things.
You know there's more to life than this physical stuff. You know this.
Don't waste your life searching in wrong directions for the truth. Don't be like I was. Learn from my mistakes and open a Bible.
Isn't it about time you stopped disparaging the truth and actually looked into it? Isn't it time you gave "the other side" a fair shake? Isn't it about time? The time you may or may not have left on this earth?
The meaning of life is this: You have 75 years, if you're average, in order to make a choice. Choose wisely. Choose armed with information, not just your "feelings" about the state of your soul and where it will end up when you die. Our feelings are ever-changing and not trustable (didn't you once "feel" so much love for that ex of yours?). Look at the many sides of spirituality (if you must), but give true Christianity it's due. Don't judge it by the Christians you know--many Christians are nasty. Some aren't truly Christian, and how would you know the difference? Some are well-intentioned but misleading. There are many false religions in the world. Don't be misled by any of them.
Read the Book.
Know the meaning of life.
Get right with God, on HIS terms, not yours, which are the terms that truly matter. One day, we will all face Him. It won't do us any good to say, "I thought I was doing the right thing..." any more than when your child lies to you and you don't believe her.
It's not difficult. The creator of everything in the universe has made it simple for you. But He won't force you. He loves you enough to give you a choice. He didn't create us to be robots, blindly worshipping Him because we don't know any better. He gave us a choice: live for Him, or without Him.
And that, my dear ones, is the meaning of the life you've been given. It's sad that it took me 45 years to even begin to realize this. It's wonderful that God never gave up on me, the way most people have, and diligently pursued me despite every offense I'd caused Him.
Happy Birthday to me. Three years ago to this day, I made a choice. I chose to worship the God of the Bible, not some god I'd made up to suit myself. It wasn't an easy choice, since I'd deluded myself for decades into believing God had many wonderful attributes, and no holy or just ones. But I made the right choice, the correct one. And I've never regretted it, not for one moment.
"So fear the LORD and serve Him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshipped...serve the LORD alone. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve...But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD." ~ Joshua 24:14-15, emphasis mine (NLT)
"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and it's gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life (Heaven) is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)
(When someone calls Christianity "narrow-minded" I think of this verse. It reminds me that there is one road to God and Heaven, not "all roads lead to God", as the world tell us. (Think about this: do all roads lead to San Jose?) Those who choose to reject the God of the Bible are, by default, choosing the road to Hell. That sounds harsh, I know. But when I realize how we reject God and disobey Him many times each day, it makes perfect sense. Heaven was created for those who are perfect (Jesus), and those who have been bought by Him, which is you and me. Those who actually accept the gift from Jesus of entering Heaven on His "ticket", His merit, are the ones who will actually inhabit Heaven, not everyone "good" as the world says. (Those who have accepted this marvelous gift are called born again--see verse below. The "difficult" part to which Jesus refers in the above verse is what happens to us after we decide to follow Him: ridicule, loss of family members, prejudice, even death, which is still being experienced by hundreds of thousands of believers all over the world today. While their lives on earth may not be "better", their eternity in Heaven certainly will be. Jesus never, ever promised us our lives would be "better" while on earth. He does promise us an eternity with Him, from whom every good thing--including Salted Caramel Macchiatos and chocolate and fresh air and flowers and love and happiness and fulfillment--was created. Choose today whose side you're on. There are only two. Remember that if you aren't on God's side, you default to the other side. These are God's standards, not mine. But He's the One we'll all face one day.)
"Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth: unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.'"
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus (a respected Jewish religious leader). "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?"
Jesus replied, "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water (physical birth) and the Spirit (rebirth, regeneration of the Spirit, being "born again", which happens only when a person decides to consciously follow God). Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don't be surprised when I say, "You must be born again." ~ John 3:3-7, emphasis mine (NLT)