For those who have been wondering, no, I haven’t lost interest in my blog. I’m still very enthusiastic to write my way through the past two years of my life (although, it’s more like the last three years now!).
And no, I’m not in a new relationship. Some people have wondered whether my absence from the blogging world over the past couple of months is because I have a new someone in my life. No, I haven’t.
I’m single and happy.
Hey, I just love that sentence!
I love it because I never thought it would ever be true. Throughout every millisecond of my marriage, I thought – heck, I knew! – that I needed to be in a relationship with Mr Ex to be happy.
I now sometimes wonder if happiness is the realisation that you can be happy without the one thing you always thought you needed to be happy.
For those keen-as-mustard readers who remember back to earlier chapters, you’ll remember that I re-discovered Figure Skating post-separation. When I wrote Chapter 22: Snowflakes & Sparkles, I really thought that I’d hit the big-time with my skating. I thought that last year’s Broadway on Ice, which I skated in, was as good as it would get for me. And, it was pretty gosh-darn good!
But, what I didn’t know when I wrote that chapter, and what I never dreamed possible, was I would go along to a skating workshop in late July 2015 and I would be picked for a state-level team.
And I am preparing to soon represent my state in the National Figure Skating Championships.
I’m not being melodramatic AT ALL when I say that is NOT a sentence I ever thought I’d say!
So, 6am training sessions, padded-up toes inside my skating boots, and trying to nail a spiral like Sasha Cohen (a girl can dream, can’t she?!) is the story of my life at the moment.
And I’ve never been happier. Or healthier!
I am super excited to be uploading the ‘Sunshine Blogger Award’ badge to my blog (thank you, Warrior Princess for your very kind nomination!!).
I was humbled to receive a nomination from my favourite blogger (you can visit her blog here and, in fact, I highly recommend you do!)
With this award comes a question.
And the question given to me is:
“What is the meaning of life and how important is faith, hope and love in light of this?”
Talk about a tough question!!!!!
Humankind have been pondering this question for centuries and almost everyone has their own take on it.
In preparation for writing this chapter, I was skimming through a few of my own chapters earlier today and read that I didn’t believe in evolution “because how can you get something out of nothing, which is the bottom line of evolution”.
And as I read that, I realised…
Both evolution and creation are theories/explanations (whatever you want to call them) for how the universe and everything in it came to be. And by that very definition, both are explanations of how we got ‘something’ out of ‘nothing’.
I guess what I meant when I was writing that earlier chapter was that I, personally, don’t buy evolution’s explanation of how the earth was born and why human beings exist. I look at the intricacies of the human eye, the perfection of the water cycle, the intelligence of a bee finding pollen from a flower, the suitability of Earth to sustain life, and the wonder of the sun, and I think everything points to a designer.
Talking to a dear science-loving friend the other day about the discovery of water on Mars (she had a reputable science journal with evidence of life on Mars billions of years ago), she marvelled in amazement as she explained to me, “The chances of Earth evolving are so slim it’s actually ridiculous; and the moon being formed by a random collision; and the chances of tiny little bacteria evolving into animals and then humans… But that’s what happened and it’s pretty cool!”. She was laughing, but she still totally believes it. She is heading towards a PhD in something sciencey and she unwaveringly believes that the meaning of life is simply that we randomly evolved into an abundantly-filled, living planet and when we die, that’s it.
Maybe it does sound more reasonable to believe that things are what they seem and there is nothing more. And a collision in the universe millions of years ago spitting crust material into orbit formed the moon.
But I don’t. And that’s OK. There’s no law that says we all have to agree on everything.
It does, however, make me realise that both evolution and creation involve far-fetched beliefs. Whether you believe that tiny bacteria evolved over millions of years into human life or whether you believe that a designer created this world, either way, it is an explanation for getting something from nothing.
Personally, I believe in a creator who artistically designed this world. He created the universe, he put the starts in the sky, he made human beings in his own image to be in relationship with him. Now, I could go on and on about the ins and outs of what went wrong and today’s brokenness, but getting back to the question…
The meaning of life.
My answer? Ess Bell believes that the meaning of life is to be in relationship with God.
I believe we were created to be in relationship with God and our souls will be restless – falling short of their full capacity – until we enter into a relationship with God.
And by that, I mean that God wants to love us and to have us love him back.
I believe that in doing so, we find true completeness, wholeness, and our purpose for our life.
Some people will agree with me. Some people will disagree with me. And some people will think I’m disillusioned and will feel sorry for me.
I don’t mind what you think and I’m not going to try to convince you of my beliefs.
Because, I realised something the other day as I tried to explain to a fellow teacher that the Inquiry pedagogy for teaching is the best way that children learn. My friend, a teacher, did not agree. We are both teachers. We both have a class of children that we teach everyday. But I believe whole-heartedly that Inquiry is the far superior teaching practice that produces best results, while she believes whole-heartedly that it is not. I couldn’t convince her. And she couldn’t convince me.
And I realised that trying to convince someone of something is never going to be successful.
Because our beliefs have to be formed by our experiences.
So, my belief that being in relationship with God is based on my experience of that being true.
And my belief that being in relationship with God gives us a completeness, wholeness and purpose that we would otherwise not have, is based on my experience of that being true.
Figure Skating makes my heart sing. I feel happiest, most complete, when I am on a freshly zambonied ice rink.
Teaching makes my heart sing. I feel happiest when I am in my classroom making new discoveries with my kiddos and witnessing their light-bulb moments.
Skating and teaching now take up a large portion of my daily life. In fact, my life can probably be greatly summed up by those two words right now. And I believe that God led me to those avenues. I believe that the heart is best satisfied by the One who made it. When I thought I was in control of my life, marrying Mr Ex, working in child care, I thought my life was perfect. I thought a future with Mr Ex was the best, the ONLY, path to happiness.
The second part of the question relates to the importance of faith, hope and love in our lives.
Well, unlike my stance on the meaning of life, I do think everyone would agree with me that faith, hope and love are essential ingredients in life.
And I think everyone has all three of them, to some extent at least.
Faith: Everyone has faith in something, whether it’s the brakes in your car, your hairdresser, the computer guy, or a higher spiritual being. You put your faith in something or someone.
Hope: We all hope for something, whether it is a new car, a loved one being home for Christmas, or winning the lottery. We all have hope. “Hope you have a great holiday”, “Hope you’re going well?”. It’s a happy-clappy, harmless little word that pops up all the time.
Love: I’m not going to try to explain how and why we fall in love. Beats me! But I do know that we all love. And I think there is something about love that transcends understanding. That half-dead kangaroo, holding-on-against-all-odds-and-logic kind of love that most people experience at some point in their life.
But I think maybe there’s something rather wishy-washy or consumerist about those three elements. I can buy jewellery engraved with the word “Faith”, white decorative wall features spelling the word “Hope”, and garden features of puppies holding a loveheart with the word “Love” inside. People buy that stuff. And I do too! It sells. It’s pretty. It’s inspiring. It reminds us that we want all three of those words in our lives, as reinforced by society.
But if I talk about what faith, hope and love actually look like for me, I suppose it would be a whole lot less aesthetically-pleasing than what Hallmark cards make it out to be.
The picture of faith, hope and love in my mind is not spectacular, nor pretty enough to warrant hanging on my wall for decorative purposes. It’s also not particularly easy.
In my life, it’s a picture of 20-something divorcee who is continually dying to self.
Dying to her notion of perfection, dying to her bitterness or anger that might creep in sometimes when she hears that her ex-husband is living on Cloud 9, dying to her mental picture of what her life should look like right now, dying to her inner streak that thinks she doesn’t need a god. It is a 20-something who had already picked out names for her three children (and knew she’d have them at 25, 27 and 30) but who, now at 27, is single and childless.
And that goes against the popular mentality that self-actualisation comes from within ourselves. “Look inside yourself and you’ll find your true self; you can work your own happiness.”
But that is not what Jesus says.
Jesus says, “Lose yourself to find yourself” (Matt. 16:25).
And that’s what I do daily.
Lose myself to find myself. Death to self. Resurrection to life. That’s the meaning of life.
And for me, it looks like that same 20-something finding a passion and purpose in the art and science of teaching. Teaching children. And figure skating. Representing her state in competitive figure skating. Uncertain of what the next year will bring. Uncertain of whether she’ll ever find a partner or have children or who-bloody-knows-what’s-going-on! But having faith, hope and love, from first-hand experiencing that throughout the uncertainties, messes, disappointments and darkness, there is an inextinguishable light that shines.
I don’t think anyone can get far in the Christian faith by trying to reason and logically ‘work out’ God. Debating creation versus evolution or discussing the validity of the Bible (is it a collection of nice moral stories? Or is it the living word of God?) is only going to get you going around in circles.
I’ve never met anyone who said, “I’ve worked out the Bible is true, so I’m a Christian.”
Nope. It’s not, “five points to creation and three points to evolution, so Christianity wins! I’m a Christian!”
It’s always been about experience; what I’ve experienced to be true.
And that’s not something I can sell to you.
I can only share my experience with you.
My experience is that even when I was happily married, I was only reaching between 5 and 10% of my actual capacity as a human. I had no idea. I thought I was happy. And I thought I knew exactly what I wanted.
I don’t think Christianity is about proving or convincing.
The foundation of Christianity is in sharing experiences and stories; Not stories about how the world was created or step-by-step instructions of how to get yourself ‘saved’ (you know how much I hate that hierarchical dualism mistakenly believed by many to be central to Christianity. It’s not.).
Christianity is based around stories told by real, flawed, un-special people of how their lives have changed beyond doubt, having experienced first-hand a relationship with God. A God who dwelt among us initially as a carpenter from Nazareth and today as the Holy Spirit.
I see it all around me. I experience it daily. And I can’t deny that.
For me, that is what is truly maddening and truly beautiful about God.
Stay tuned for my next chapter coming soon: “How I found my church for quirks” 🙂