This I Believe
It all started, as most good things in my life do, with music. When Against Me! began screaming their folk punk anthem “Walking is Still Honest” into my headphones last winter, I began to contemplate what made this song so enjoyable. The brazen chorus, “can anybody tell me why God won’t speak to me?” certainly seemed contrary to my faith, but before I could begin arguing with myself, I got stuck on the first phrase that came into my mind in the song’s defense: “I was really into these guys in high school.” Was. i> With that one inadvertent thought, the last four years of my life seemed to become something irrecoverable, a memory of my former selves.
But the more I rolled this idea around in my head, the more optimistic I became. Sure, my present was far too quickly becoming my past, but I had no intention of trying to relive those memories because “Alex masters time travel” ranks just below “Alex garners a rudimentary understanding of sports” on my personal list of impossibilities. Suddenly, I truly understood what I had been saying for years, that we only get X number of years on earth and we have to do more than lay down and let them run us over.
I believe that we get life as our very first birthday present from God. I believe we get youth now so that we can have a heart and a mind full of scrapbooks and home movies when we have old age later. I believe we get life so that we can see beauty, feel overwhelming joy and pain, laugh at countless inside jokes, make a thousand mistakes, dance to our favorite songs, spend way too much time playing Nintendo 64, fall in love, fall out of love, fall back in love again and suffer deserts of confusion about the meaning of life and everything in it so that we can appreciate one tiny oasis of understanding from time to time.
I believe we get life so that we have something to talk about when we go to heaven. It was this realization that saved me from spiraling into pessimism in the following year, when my family moved out of my hometown. When I lost my grandfather just before Christmas, and when I held my grandmother’s hand as I saw her cry for the first time. When my attempts to reason out a meaning for my existence coupled with acute loneliness and led me to believe that my life would inevitably end in trite obscurity. When I gave up on myself again and again as I blindly stumbled through the changes and challenges that life faced me with. Through all of this, I never stopped believing that God had something waiting for me after my life ended, something that would make all these mysteries and trials make sense.
The memory of my brief contribution to human history, no matter how significant, might one day be forgotten. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth living, that it’s not beautiful, that it’s not exactly what God wants for me. In this past year I realized that I no longer need my life to “make sense.” I am no longer obsessed with finding permanence, with getting to wherever I’m ultimately going to end up. I know that for all of the fleeting comfort that planning can bring me, life is meant to be lived, not calculated. Every moment need not be a step toward a goal, but a gift to be savored. This I believe.