"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." It's a good quote because it's true, and none the worse for having been quoted many times before.
I can't hold off posting any longer. I've been too busy to post but it seems if I try to go without posting any longer my head won't be able to contain all my thoughts anymore before I start forgetting.
My girlfriend and I were talking to a friend last night and the topic was almost entirely centered around God no longer being the center of people's lives. It's not something people feel comfortable talking about anymore. The public at-large either has no thoughts about God or puts God in a little box and sets it aside as another part of their life that has little to do with the rest of it. It's sad that when you're in the company of people you know, God is often the least likely thing we can talk about...because it's the thing we have least in common.
I lead a small group of men in discussion about faith every week. The program is called Awakening Faith and it's designed to get Catholics who are at different places in their faith life to grow more and really think about it. Our culture is a busy culture, full of distractions and short attention spans. I take my group of about five guys and go into a room set aside at the parish for such activities and just talk for usually about 90 minutes about REAL stuff. No sports, no weather, no "I did this and that" talk. Real talk.
So far it's been great. I feel like everyone is participating and really thinking about where God is in their life, whether or not He is important or even real. I pulled out an analogy the other day that I often use to help people who, like myself, did not understand the big picture of the faith. It's not just a set of rules and a religion. It's the whole meaning of life.
We are all like tadpoles in a pond. We have our tadpole stuff, our tadpole cell-phone, our tadpole computer, our tadpole friends and family...we like being tadpoles and don't want to stop being tadpoles. We don't think about anything but our tadpole life. However, eventually we grow arms and legs...we become frogs and we have to leave. And we consider this a scary prospect. "It's so morbid to think about becoming a frog," we say. "Just stay focused on your tadpole life and have a lot of tadpole fun. The pond we live in is a beautiful place and it's all that matters."
But that's not true. It's a lie. We are meant to be frogs. It's the purpose of our tadpole existence to grow into big, beautiful frogs, moving out into the vastness of the world beyond the pond.
We are put on this earth to become perfected. We are imperfect beings loved by a perfect being who wants to marry us. But this being, God, is not a rapist. He is a true lover...he won't take us home with Him if we don't want to. He left things in the world like mountains and meadows, flowers, earthly marriage, cookies, etc. to give us a small taste of life with Him. They're like little gifts he is giving to his girlfriend, the Church (us). If we get to know God and move forward in love with Him, we'll be truly happy, because He is our true love.
But if we fall in love with the things of this world instead, well...like a true lover, though He knows that we're meant to be with Him, and that we'll be truly happy with Him, He will respect that and break up with us. God doesn't send us to Hell, we send ourselves there. Hell is simply eternal separation from God...and that's what the pain of Hell is. And the pleasure of Heaven is his eternal presence. Earth is just somewhere in the middle...a dating ground for God.
That's why it's so important to have your faith to be not just a part of your life but all of your life. It's the purpose of your existence to grow into relationship with God where you will be truly happy...not just chasing after the pleasures of this world that are just a shadow of what God is like.
"I came that you might have life, and live it to the fullest," says Jesus. What? You mean the Church isn't down on fun? Yes, that's right. The Church teaches that God wants you to be happy. And true happiness, not temporary false happiness caused by chasing after temporary worldly joys, is found in growing to be perfect - to be a saint! Of course, we'll never be perfect...but it is in the journey to perfection, not the destination, that we find redemption. The job is finished after we die...so long as our striving was genuine.
My girlfriend and I agree that we must strive to have real conversation...about God and faith. It must be the center of our lives and our thoughts, because if it's not, we'll simply be floating along like so many others, focused on the world. The reason she and I are dating is not because she is a good person, a gentlelady, is nice to me, gets along with me, etc. Those things are nice and pretty important for us to get along, of course. However, the most important thing, the most vital part of our relationship in which all other things about us are nothing, is that I believe she is the best person to help me reach heaven. We are dating to find out if this is true...praying and asking God if it's true. If we get married, that will be our acknowledgment that it is. If not, it will be upsetting but no great loss compared to the risk of each other bringing us away from God. Because if we did not share the same faith, I strongly believe that is what would happen. She can't bring me forward if she's behind me. I can't bring her forward if I'm behind her. Only if we are hand-in-hand in faith can our relationship be one founded in Christ.
The one thing, the ONLY thing, we absolutely have to do on this earth, spoke a very wise man in my Awakening Faith group, is die. It's the only thing we have no choice about. Everyone dies. But not everyone finds true happiness, their purpose in life.
God is that purpose.
There was a dream that I dreamed, and that dream was for unity in the purpose of Heaven.