A few months ago, I turned sixty-six, something I never dreamed would happen. It wasn’t that I thought I’d die early. I just never visualized it. I never expected these gray hairs, these wrinkles and aches. But here I am: sixty-six and thinking about the meaning of life.
It’s confusing. We get plopped down on Earth buck-naked, not understanding why or who or what sent us. We land where we land. Then most of us get 80 years (give or take) to figure it out before we’re pulled up out of our skin. I’ve got another one or two decades (maybe) left to find all of the answers I seek. While some conclude that life’s random, there’s nothing beyond death, that never made sense to me.
I was born sure that something greater than me was in charge and that everything’s connected. That there’s a reason things happen whether I understand and like them or not. A ton of philosophies and religions have tried to explain the meaning of life to me. Most of them conflict with each other. I’ve come to believe that I was put here to know, not the god of this religion or that denomination, but the God of the Bible. The Creator of heaven and earth. To labor one-to-One to repair a breach that was set in motion when Adam and Eve doubted God. To choose trust and not doubt. To have faith His plan of redemption.
From the time I was a little girl in Sunday School until this morning when I put my Bible back on the shelf, I’ve asked questions and expected answers from God. A Christian once shut me down by saying I asked too many questions. As I nursed my injured pride the thought that popped into my head was God answers people who ask questions.
Many years ago I went forward when a pastor gave an altar call in a Baptist church. I was already saved so that wasn’t my goal. In fact, I didn’t even share my request with the pastor. This was between God and me. What I prayed for silently was to know Him, really know Him. When I returned to my seat I resolved before I left the building that when I got home I would I sit down and read the Bible until I got an answer. That same day I read in I Kings 3 where God invited Solomon to ask for whatever he wished. Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding. God’s answer to Solomon’s earnest request for wisdom and to know how to lead His people lit me up. It was my answer too.
“Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.”
That assurance that I will know Him fully and that He will create a unique person in me have been with me for almost forty years, through good times and bad. Through times when I was faithful and when I wasn’t. And that was just the beginning.
A few days later I was watching live TV in Central California when a pastor named Dick Mills came on. His thing was to meet a person and in rapid-fire, cite scriptures that would be meaningful to them. I called in to the program and was the third caller to whom he spoke.
“Go ahead, Teri. You’re on with Dick Mills,” said the host. I told him nothing beyond my name.
Mills began to rattle off verses in quick succession. He began with Prov. 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”.
I wrote down the verses and responded, “Uh huh. Mmm.” [In addition to Prov. 4:18, he gave me Isa. 65:24, Rom 1:17, II Cor. 3:18, Ps. 84:7, and 1 Kings 3:5,9,11-14 in just little time as it took me to list them here.] In the aggregate they suggested that mine would be a long, drawn-out trajectory.
He told me he was reminded of the tortoise and the hare, (the hare ran swiftly but was sidetracked while the tortoise moved slowly toward the finish and ultimately won the race) and intimated to me and his viewers that it would take a long time [it has].
Giving me a chance to speak he asked if I had a response. “No, thank you,” I said and hung up. It wasn’t about a conversation with him and the greater-Modesto TV audience. It was an answer from God.
Earlier I had read 1 John 5:14-16 where the Bible says that we have anything we ask for if it’s in His will. I had also read that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:4-7, Luke 10:27). So, when I asked to know God it was in this way and I knew it was His will. I knew His answer was yes and it’s a promise I carry with me.
By the time I’m jerked back out of my skin, I’ll know Him fully. Until then I’m content with my progress. After all, knowing, like life, isn’t a destination. It’s a process. There’s an arc to life. A fearsome and beautiful symmetry to starting, following, and ending that I could have (and have at times) fought, ignored, and finally, embraced.
In this sixty-sixth year I’ve learned that aging gracefully has nothing to do with being youthful or looking good. Aging gracefully is about accepting my arc in life, trusting in the God that placed me here, and responding with ever-increasing faith. The meaning and point of life is to know God and in the end, to perfect faith, hope, and love.
I’ve had mostly positive responses to my recent post on leaving religion and my political party. That’s nice, but not necessary. Even had I been excoriated (and though I was expecting to be), I’m not fearful or embarrassed of these decisions or of disappointing anyone but God. We all have the right to choose. I’ve made my choice.
My quest to know Him can’t fail. I’ve been promised that I win my life’s race. If I make a misstep (and I’ve made more than one), I know that He’ll shepherd me back on the right path. This is no misstep. I’m precisely where I should be.