What makes up a life?

I’ve heard it at least a hundred times.  Whether it is coming from a contestant on a reality show, an artist I’ve known, a musician I’ve sung with, or a fellow mom in book club – it’s always the same.

This is what I love.  This is what I was meant to do. This is my life.

It’s an innocuous phrase, meant to place emphasis on a particular thing as important.  I get it.  Others might wander aimlessly around, trying to find their footing on the tall and slippery ladder of life, but you?  Well you’ve got all that figured out.  No more soul searching. You have passion, my friend.  A calling that few others have.  [Art/kids/music/comedy/writing/cooking/acting] is your life and you just don’t think you could continue to draw a breath if that particular thing wasn’t in it.

You can.

I’ve been amazed at how many people put their life’s worth into things that don’t last.  Fame is fleeting.  Inspiration comes and goes.  Our senses dull over time and sometimes we lose them altogether.  You will lose friends and even the strongest earthly bonds can crumble or be taken in a moment’s notice.  Children you devote your entire life to – all those waffle and banana sandwiches, for goodness sakes – can turn and just walk away.

The value of your life cannot be measured by these things.  Even though it’s tempting.  Even when these things bring you great joy or tremendous success.  Rachmaninoff gives you goose bumps.  Playing your guitar in front of a crowd is the best drug in the world. Writing makes you feel normal instead of a crazy person with ribbons of words spinning around and tying knots in your brain.  You finally made it. These are gifts that have been entrusted to you alone, to polish like fine silver and use for a higher calling. That much is true.  But it’s still not your life.

Your life is a soul, housed in a ruff-hewn body whose organs and tissues break down with time.  A body that is complete with a mouth that says stupid things, and a stomach that consumes more stupid things, and feet that rest and stay clean more often than they get dirty.  And this soul has a decision to make.  It has to choose its master.  It can dedicate its life’s work toward fleeting fame, or something that does not disappear into dust.  Music, art, writing – these do not make up your life.  But forgiveness.  Grace.  The unconditional love from God, the Father.  And Jesus Christ, his only son. This is life. 

I was raised in the church since birth.  I was sheltered and kept in a small, clean box where truth was easy and evil was dark and avoidable.  I cringe now at the judgment I placed on others who chose different lifestyles than me, or who took long, meandering paths to express themselves.  People call themselves believers and yet go home to beat their wives, cheat on their spouses, make their children feel like pond scum, or feel absolutely nothing at all. There are horrific things done in the name of God, and going to church on Sunday means nothing, really, to sanctify one’s heart.

 I’m not saying this to be righteous.  God knows I don’t have that right.  But through the course of my life’s many misadventures, I’ve grown to realize that everyone finds truth in their own time.  In their own crazy, soulful, serpentine way.   It’s not our place to judge or tell people what to believe or how or when or why.  Last I checked, we aren’t the savior police.  But when it comes to my own soul, it has been filled with love that has no human replication, warming my brittle bones and washing clean what I used to think was white, but later realized was stained and broken.

I used to think that tangible things mattered.  Like if I wasn’t here to raise my children or be my husband’s partner that their lives might possibly end.  But people will go on without you.  Someone else can sing or write or love just as easily.  These things are not the foundation upon which your soul is supported.  You cannot place your trust in these.

But the purity of God – a light so bright that you cannot view it head-on and emotion so strong it fills you with something stronger than fear itself– this is not something found in a cheesy Christian bookstore.  It is not limited to those wearing pink silk dresses and sitting in pews.  It is not reserved for those who say the right things or look the part or tug at your heartstrings or lack all intellect.  It is simply for the soul who seeks it, and accepts it with grace.

So as it turns out, the pure, unabashed, accepting love of God is my life.  My screwed up, messy, inadequate human life.

That’s all I really have.  It’s all that matters.

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2 Responses to What makes up a life?

  1. Linda Icenhauer-Ramirez says:

    What a wonderful post! I agree with everything you’ve written. And once you discover God’s amazing love, it changes the way you approach every aspect of your life.

  2. Simply Mella says:

    Truer words.

    Fact is, He’s kinda already in control of all of the things that we think we are so vital to and in control of – and there’s a whole lot of freedom in realizing that we don’t have to be.

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