I love this time of the year. It promotes the already-present tendency in me to reflect upon my life, both its past and future. I’ve been thinking about my journey of faith that began in early 2015 (right before I started University!), how far I’ve come, and how I’ve stumbled. At the risk of simplifying my struggles and victories, I think there are 4 distinct phases that I’ve passed through in these couple of years and I would love to attempt to articulate them.
1. The ‘God is not my pie’ stage
Arguably, this was before I had truly desired to take my faith seriously. God was probably in my life. However, He was just a piece of my already abundant and complete pie. He was also probably a smaller piece next to my friends, my studies, my drive to succeed, and my potential to build a name for myself. He was a great back-up plan, and whenever I failed, I would turn to Him to boost my confidence. He was also a great passenger in my life. Quiet when I needed Him to be, but ready and willing to give me directions when I needed Him to. For a long time, this was enough for me. I could do whatever I want, yet still appeal to a higher being when troubles outweighed me and I momentarily recognised my mortality and insignificance. It was the best of both worlds.
However, there came a point where it wasn’t enough anymore. God, by definition, ought to be a being that far supersedes my problems and potential. He, by definition, cannot sit next to me as a compliant passenger and cannot just be a listening ear. He is, by definition, my Creator and the one to which I am subjected to, not the other way around. In the way I was living, I was reversing the order of creation, putting myself first and centre of my own life. Even though on the outside I may still appear to be a godly, goodly person, I was rebelling in the face of God. After much struggle and thought, and through experiencing His grace and forgiveness, I was ready to enter the next stage.
2. The ‘Wow, this is what it looks like’ stage
Here, I began to scrutinise my lifestyle choices and came to the conclusion that to commit to loving, serving and worshipping a God involves the whole of me, not just the Sunday or ‘spiritual’ side of me. As I slowly began to learn what it means to lose myself for the Kingdom and to the person of Jesus, I began to see my life match up to the joy and peace that are promised in the Bible. It began to be less tedious to pray and read the Word, to hang out with other Christians and to refrain from enticing dangers of this world.
However, it wasn’t all smooth and rosy. Turning away from my old ways was and is an ongoing battle, of my will, mind and strength. In the midst of discovering true joy and satisfaction, I began to realise the extent to which I actually am dependent on God’s grace and mercy. The tiresome, irksome parts of me became amplified and a growing sense of dependence upon God began to be cultivated within me. I found out I needed Him more than I realised, because without Him, I am a wretched being. My biggest achievements would wither and fail in the sight of a higher, more moral, glorious being. Therefore, I entered the next stage of my faith…
3. The ‘Do I actually want this?’ stage
This was when the rubber meets the road and I was faced with the daily, conflicting decision of whether to submit or carve a path for myself. By this time, I was probably already quite heavily invested in the Christian community, serving, growing and spending a lot of time with like-minded people. However, there were obviously conflicting personalities and differing opinions and with the luxury of choice and independence, I came to many crossroads of whether my faith was real and worth nurturing. It was probably at this time where I thoughtfully reconsidered the reality of Christianity, where if it was real would have the most profound impact upon my life, and if it was not, we would be wasting our time and resources, most importantly wasting our lives.
However, every thoughtful, honest reflection would yield desire, value and reason to keep persevering in the faith. Every challenge to my faith would produce a sense of urgency to increase in knowledge and submission to the one I call my God. To the sceptic, my conclusions would be obviously blind-sided and biased. However, the alternative of atheism does not yield a similar hope, nor does it yield a future. The Christian view fulfils the deepest longing of humanity, besides giving an answer to our origin, meaning, morality and destiny. I suppose until someone proffers up a different alternative, I will embark onto the next stage.
4. The ‘Keep on keeping on’ stage
This stage arguably doesn’t end until we have inhaled our last. I also realise I have alternated between all 4 stages throughout my couple of years as a follower of Christ. I think that this is part of life in general, and part of anything that requires time. We will continue to be tempted, tried and faced with a myriad of struggles. As my life progresses from one phase to the next, I will inevitably be met with different sets of alternatives that will challenge the authenticity of what I believe in, or the reality of Christianity.
I am not set to face all of them. I do not have all the knowledge or answers. However, the least I could do is to check my controls regularly and navigate forward. And lest you think this is the most passive part of the journey, let me assure you that this is perhaps the most challenging and tedious part. For many a time we will be met with the very real temptation to deviate and pursue what is temporal. Many times I suspect we will be met with the reality of tiredness and the incapability of moving forward. It is in these times that I think it would do us good to remember for whom we are persevering for, to whom we have committed our lives to, and in whom we place our faith and hope in. Namely: Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who is capable of defeating death, and will be capable of bringing us home.
‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3: 12-14
Happy end of the year to everyone! And may your times be filled with meaning and joy.