There is a lovely story towards the end of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, about how Arthur Gordon regained his purpose and meaning in life. In a story called The Turn of the Tide, Arthur talked about how his doctor prescribed a long retreat to a favourite place of his childhood and 12 hours of meditation on 4 prescriptions that the doctor wrote down and which he was to open every 3 hours. To cut a long story short, the 12 hours that Arthur spent meditating on the 4 prescriptions turned his life around. The prescriptions were:
1. Listen carefully
2. Try reaching back
3. Examine your motives
4. Write your worries on the sand
There are countless stories of similar journeys that brought us back to our origins or whatever and showed us the meaning of life. I've tried making some of these journeys myself. For example, I spent the whole of yesterday testing out the 4 prescriptions of Arthur Gordon. I came to a different conclusion.
Anyway, the point of all this is simply that we search for purpose in our lives. And if we reach the point where we say to ourselves that our lives are meaningless, then death is not far away. Oddly enough, conversely, near death experiences often give people a new lease of life. One of my observations have been that people who have suffered are often more receptive to the notion of God than those who haven't. Imagine this story, a guy (or girl) was caught is some disastrous event, anything from a shipwreck to disease and war, and somehow survived. Nothing miraculous about it, just good luck, shall we say. Wouldn't that experience be proof that God does not exist? You know how people often argue that if we have a loving God, why would he allow suffering? If that argument is at all a serious one, wouldn't you then expect this survivor to denounce ever believing in God and saying that the disaster proves once and for all that God does not exist? Instead, by far the most commonly reported response has been to thank God. If anything, near death experiences seem to bring people closer to God than further away.
I have suggested that we live by a certain moral code that is best encapsulated by the notion of love. And the kind of love prescribed here is one of sacrifice not one of self-satisfaction. And yet, the expectation is that self-fulfilment and true happiness will come from this sacrificial love. It's illogical but undisputedly true. I say undisputedly because we don't dispute it. Not that it cannot be disputed. Of course it can. But we know it to be true and we accept that that is what life is about.
I've also suggested that it is a relatively easy thing to do to experience the presence of God. Indeed, I argued that most of the practices that have been recommended over the centuries and around the world have been centred around this very simple practice - breathe slowly and experience calm. In Christianity, we say, Be still and know I am God. You cannot spend too much time doing this. People have spent from 5 minutes a day to spending days and years in solitude, contemplating God (whether or not they realise that that's what they are doing).
Walking with God is simply to align your life to this stillness. If your time has been spent like I described, being quiet, and letting your thoughts wander, and then if troubled, giving your troubles to God, if desiring something, asking it from God, and if happy, thanking God, you will slowly, over time, come to live a life in alignment with God. Or live what I call the Christian life. Key to this experience is to surrender your life to Him. Again, without the presence of God, I find this paradoxical. Buddhism, for example, suggests that we become detached. I can understand this if the aim of becoming detached is to avoid the pain of attachment. But becoming detached to reach nirvana is an odd advice. How can emptiness be Nirvana? And yet, it is. Nirvana is, as far as I can figure out, a vast emptiness in which the soul is finally at peace and contented. The Christian explanation makes more sense. Surrendering to God will bring more happiness because God knows better. If emptiness is being still with God, the way one might rest in the bosom of a loved one, it makes sense.
It seems to me then that the Christian explanation is entirely sensible. Be still so that you can hear the voice of God. Spend time with Him so that He may comfort you and guide you. Surrender to Him so that His will be done, not yours. And when you live your life in that way, there is contentment. It's easy enough to do. You don't need the paraphernalia of religion to do this. You don't need a set of rules or a guide book to do this. I think this is what Jesus intend. I think this is what life has been about since there were humans.
Some very strange and wonderful things happen when you do this. The more you are aligned with God, the more you feel that you are the person you're meant to be. The more you are satisfied with who you are. It's the real you. The more you are aligned, not only will you be internally happy, you will also be more truly altruistic. Giving sincerely, with no expectations in return. And the more likely you are to be successful in life. The more you will be trusted, the more you will be loved, the more you will be respected. In very real ways, you will be blessed - mentally, physically, emotionally and even materially. All this, just by spending time with God.
|"25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:25-34
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