What’s your life about? Big question, right? Well, I got that question recently in a very surprising way. Let me explain.
Not so long ago my oldest daughter Rebecca interviewed me. This was part of an assignment she had. It was actually very cute how she did it. One day I woke up and saw next to the bed a letter from her school. I wondered what it was doing there, so I opened it to see what the letter was all about.
Let me quote a little part: “Dear dad, I hope that you are in good health. At school we are doing an assignment for English that I would have to interview someone and ask about their life, personal experience and more. Right now I am on a high C for English, and in order to improve my grade, I have to get effective marks….”
And the letter goes on and on. Very nice to receive a letter from your child this way. So, we agreed to go to the nearest shopping mall to have a cup of coffee (hot chocolate for Rebecca of course…). And there she started the interview. We even recorded it on my phone so that she could listen to it again. This way writing her English assignment would be a bit easier.
You can think of questions like: What’s your name? Where were you born? You know, some introduction questions.
But then the interview took an interesting turn. The first question that really made me think more deeply was this one:
Becky: “So dad, what would you consider the biggest achievement in your life?”
That’s a big question to answer right? After thinking for a moment (remember, the conversation was being recorded, so I didn’t want to let her wait too long) I simply responded with: “Well, I suppose my biggest achievement is my family. You know, you, Josh, Sara, mum…that’s very precious to me.”
It set the stage for the next question, which was perhaps even more challenging
Becky: “OK dad. Next question, what would you call your life motto?”
Me: “My life motto?”
Sidenote: for those who wonder what that is…a motto is a statement, concept or idea that you try to live by. It defines how you live your life, because it is shaped by what you believe you ultimately value in life…
Me: “I guess that it is important for me to treat people with respect. You know…what Jesus taught us and called also the greatest commandment…to love your neighbour as you love yourself. That is a big one.”
I couldn’t help myself but ask Rebecca the same question. I know, I know! I was the one being interviewed, but I guess you never stop being dad for a while, right?
Becky gave it some thought and then responded with…’Follow your dreams’.
Now the funny thing about life motto’s is this. It’s true that the way you intend to live your life is shaped by what you ultimately value the most. Faith (believing something) needs to lead also to action when it comes to a life motto.
Let me give you a very simple example. Let’s say you value health a lot. What do you do?
You try to eat right, sleep enough, do some exercise and do certain activities with moderation. That would be a great start, wouldn’t it?
Now, let’s say I would ask you about your life motto. What would it be?
Live your dreams?
Live and let live?
You can achieve anything in life if you just set your mind to it…?
Live each day as if it is your last, because you never know when it’s your time to go…?
Fill in yours…________________________
The beauty of a life motto is that they can be very inspiring and move us to action.
Now many people don’t necessarily live by a life motto. They just live their lives. Yet, nobody live their own lives in a vacuum. We are not living on islands. We are meant to live in the context of relationships. That’s what make us human.
So, what’s the deal here? Well, simply put, we are gathered in a church community because one way or another, we share something in common. We share the Christian faith together.
If I would summarize the Christian faith in a sticky one-liner, it might be something like this:
“We are a people that live by grace alone, faith alone and through Christ alone.”
Let me explain this line a bit more. Being a Christian first means to understand that we can’t save ourselves. We need grace. Period. Grace is what God wants to extend to people who believe and that brings us to the ‘faith alone’ part. God’s grace can only be received by faith. We believe that what Jesus Christ did for you and me was enough to put us back on track again, in a right relationship with our Maker. We are people of grace and faith through Jesus Christ. That’s it. We might call it our life statement. We live by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
But here’s the thing. It’s one thing to believe that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what we believe, we will also manifest in our actions.
Remember the life motto “I believe in a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, eat well…”
The funny thing of having a life motto like that is that what will speak the loudest is not what you say, but what you do, right?
When our lifestyle (what we do) doesn’t really match up with what we say we believe, our conscience, our basic understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong, starts to kick in.
So, let’s say I believe in a healthy lifestyle, but don’t really live accordingly…the next time I get sick or feel pain because of something that the doctor would ascribe to poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle, I know that I need to stay true to what I believe to be important in life. Our conscience will function as little angel on the shoulder that will try to woo us into the right direction. But the thing with a conscience is that you can also choose not to listen to it.
Even though you believe that living healthy is a good thing and that your doctor already told you to follow through on daily exercises and a good diet, the next time you are in a situation that you need to make a choice, it’s possible to still choose the wrong thing. Some call that the bad angel whispering on our shoulder to do whatever you like…
The good angel, bad angel part, was perhaps a bit over the top…but you get the picture. We do need to make a choice every day to live our lives according to what we believe to be true, important and ultimately, life-giving.
Now, some might say that even when they make a bad choice, they don’t necessarily feel that bad about it at all. It’s true that we can habitually make choices that aren’t good and not even blink an eye. But that happens only over time! It’s what the Bible calls a ‘hardened heart’.
Let’s pause here for a moment. In my next blog we’ll continue exploring what it means to live by faith.