I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” In an age where it seems narcissistic Nihilism has come to dominate society, ideas, like nobility, dignity, self-control, and honor all seem to be in short supply.
And the reason is the dominant attitudes and ideologies of the day cannot produce that kind of character in a person. The current demands for rights, for some “have-it-your-way” identity chaos, are all apparently designed to create the actual opposite of a “well-lived life.”
I deeply grieve my children are living at such an embarrassing and dishonorable time. But I want them to live life well, and the best way to do that is to live a robust and Normal Orthodox life and trash all these other rival ideologies in the dump!
Look at our lesson in Matthew 16:20-24:
At that time, Jesus strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”
Poor Peter, thinking he knew better than the Lord how to “assemble” salvation for the world!
But Jesus reveals to His disciples and us the directions for a well-lived life.
First, Realize. The problem in my life isn’t outside circumstances; it’s me. If I don’t confront myself and my own weaknesses of depending on my undisciplined wisdom, my short-sighted desires. If I start with admitting that I am the source of my challenges, I set myself free to deal with the one thing in this life I CAN control; ME. I usually have very limited control over the outside circumstances of my life but I have complete control over my attitude, my actions, and my priorities. Starting here is the key to a well “assembled” life.
Next, Act. If I am going to take the next step in this “assembly” of a meaningful life, I am going to have to “take up” my own cross. Frankly, no Jew of the Lord’s day misunderstood what the Lord was saying here. There is only one purpose for a cross. Yep, it means the death penalty. Taking up a cross means I act on the truth that only in truly dying to my old life will I ever have the freedom to embrace His life for me. Trying to hold on to my old life and just adding some of the Lord’s life here and there makes for a messy “assembly” My life won’t turn out well. I have to courageously and purposefully act on the truth that if I “die” with Him to my old life, I will then (and only then) join Him in His resurrection. New life depends on saying “goodbye” to my “old” life.
Finally, MOVE! The final direction in assembling my life on Christ is to MOVE. After I’ve taken the first step in realizing I have to start with me, and then shoulder my cross, I can’t stop there just holding my cross. I have to move forward. I have to see Christ ahead of me and I have to follow in His footsteps. That certainly will take me to the place of crucifixion and dying to my old life, but following Christ doesn’t stop there. I will go on to follow Him to His burial and then to His resurrection. But that isn’t the end either! Following Jesus means also I go to where He is now: in intimate connection and life with the Father. This is my true life and destiny.
Today, are you having trouble “assembling” your life in such a way that things “fit?” Perhaps it’s time to finally admit you need to “follow the directions.” These three steps given to us by Christ are the path to the life we were created to have. So today, let’s follow the directions and watch as our life is “put together” well and we live a Normal Orthodox life every day!
P.S. Dear Lord, other voices surround us calling us down paths that lead to destruction. Only Your wisdom and Your gentle voice can direct us to true life and peace. Please help us help our children learn to listen to Your direction and give us the grace to ignore all the other histrionic screams of empty lives. Give us the courage to stand in this evil day and lovingly live lives that invite everyone to You. Amen