What do you think drives people?
As humans, we tend to centre our lives on what we think will garner us the most pleasure. That is, on what we think will satisfy our deepest longings. When all is said and done, all we want is to be happy.
What is your story?
As corny as it may sound, my story of faith has been synonymous with that of my journey to true, lasting happiness. Growing up in a family in which communal prayers and reading the Bible were a daily ritual, I knew what God’s moral standards were. In particular, I knew that according to the Bible, the greatest commandment was to love God with all one’s heart, soul and strength. However, although I would eagerly talk about my faith, there was a lot that I loved more than I loved him. I loved my work, my reputation, and my insatiable desire for quick pleasures more than I loved this God of the Bible. Deep down I thought that my inability to love him to the radical extent that he seemed to demand meant that I didn’t truly belong to him.
And to be honest, knowing that I was merely pretending to be a Christian terrified me. Filled with a pervasive sense of guilt, fear, shame and entrapment, I came up with my own version of Christianity. I told myself that I needed to strive to be a better person in order to be accepted by God; to do more good in order to compensate for all the many, daily ways I messed up.
Thankfully, it was my love for reading that eventually led me to understand what this God was really like. I remember sitting in my eldest sister’s bedroom one day when she had left the house, only to find at the top of her bedside table a short book on love and relationships. They say that curiosity killed the cat, but in this case it saved my life. Being the hopeless romantic that I was, I began to leaf through the pages.
The chapter that most caught my attention was one that addressed the topic of regrets and how ashamed we can be of our pasts. They are constant reminders of how flawed we are as human beings. My tears splashed onto the page as the author went on to describe what Jesus endured when he was torturously crucified on the cross. I began to realise that the message of the cross was not just an insubstantial trite that youth leaders at church enjoyed reiterating.
On the contrary, God showed his love for me in that, knowing I would fail to live up to these moral standards, he suffered a death in my place and paid the price that I would never be able to pay, regardless of any of my attempts to be a good person. He set me free to know that I am deeply loved, no matter what I’ve done.
God calls each and every one of us to love him more than anything else in this world because in him, and only in him, are we able to find fulfilment. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to find worth and satisfaction in transient things, only to find that they can never fill my desire for true and lasting joy. Since grappling with the magnitude of what Jesus did, my life has become rooted in the death, resurrection and life of Jesus Christ and as a result of this, there is a direct correlation between my happiness and the extent to which I delight in God, who claims to be better than anything this life has to offer.
The maths of the Bible may seem absurd; it teaches that in magnifying God’s glory - his beauty and splendour - and thereby minimising our own, we begin to see what joyful living is really all about. And so now I understand why the greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God with everything that I am: in doing so, I begin to realise what it truly means to be human.