Today’s story comes from Cindy:
Recently, I spoke to a group of people on the topic, Hunger For God. During my presentation, I related a story regarding how my passion for God increased exponentially, right about the time I turned twenty-five. The state of mind and orientation I possessed prior to the happy outcome alluded to in the preceding lines is both instructive and illustrative.
In the preceding months, I was a law student who hated law school and disliked living in a Southern state. As a native New Yorker, I was nostalgic for the days when I sat in cafes, writing poetry and listening to Jazz in the Village. Growing up, I imagined living in a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, wearing the latest fashion and throwing dinner parties for the coolest yuppies that populated that part of Brooklyn. My sense of dislocation and alienation was profound. Also, being essentially a right brained person, I struggled to fit into the strictly delineated disciplined, logical and analytical mode of thinking required for success in law school. I once tried writing my law school brief with some creative flair and was roundly reprimanded by my professor. The twofold pressures of dislocation and academic challenge occupied and weighed me down.
Compounding the problem was the knowledge that if I returned to those comforts, like Jonah in the bible, I would be running from God’s will for my life. During my first year of law school, I really was not the best student. Internally, I kicked and screamed while forcing myself to attend class. I did not study the way most law students know they should if they want to survive that grueling first year. Instead, I would come home from class each day, plop myself on my bed and cry for most of the evening. It was only after midnight most nights that I would crack open my books and take a cursory look at the cases that needed to be read. Even though I knew that the Lord had led me to this place, I had not fully embraced it. I felt challenged and emotionally drained and wanted to escape to a more familiar and comfortable life. Walking in God’s will was proving to be difficult.
As the end of the semester approached, it began to dawn on me that I could fail my first year and flunk out. I contemplated how devastating it would be if I failed. I could not have people thinking that I was not smart enough. Mercifully the Lord used my pride to rescue me from my downward spiral and help me embrace my life as a law student, which was His will for my life. Given my emotional turmoil and the subpar study habits that characterized those first few months, drastic measures had to be taken. I locked myself in my room, preparing to pass the beastly tests that awaited me. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, I spent three weeks sleep deprived, with the help of NoDoz, fueled by pride, cramming for my finals. I fired up the dormant left side of my brain and spent the last three weeks before finals making up for all the work I did not do during the first three months. Even so, it was through God’s intervention that I managed to squeeze out a decent GPA, except for that terrible grade I got in Property Law. I just did not spend enough time studying the Rule Against Perpetuities.
I am convinced the Lord knew I could not survive another two years of this so when my twenty fifth birthday rolled around, I had an epiphany. I remembered reading the bible when I came across a Psalm that was written by Moses. Psalm 90 says:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before
the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the
earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is
past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood;
they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and
withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath
we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret
sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under
your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of
our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their
span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to
the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may
get a heart of wisdom….
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the
work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
While reading it, God decided to manifest a little of Himself in my bedroom and I believed I heard Him whisper, “Cindy, your life on earth is like a vapor, so please live it with eternity in mind.” When I heard Him, I was quickened in my heart and my perspective and orientation began to change from that moment. I knew that meant that every thing He called me to do should have some impact on eternity. Becoming a lawyer was necessary because maybe he would somehow use me to impact people that needed to know Him. I knew from that moment on that I had to be intentional with my time, talent, resources and relationships. I began praying that specific scripture every day, “Teach [me] to number [my] days that [I] may get a heart of wisdom.” As a result, my passion for my Savior intensified. I knew that my life was numbered and every thing I did from that point on had to be weighed against the backdrop of the eternal. Some may have thought that the decisions I made after this experience was a bit radical, but I didn’t care. I discovered that I must live each day with the aim of eternity in mind.
As Christians, when living for eternity becomes our focus, a life of radically following God becomes the norm. One of my favorite scriptures is found in Ecclesiastes 3, verse 11. It states, “God has put eternity in our hearts.” This means that inherent in man is a consciousness and a longing for the eternal. When man responds to this truth, inevitably he discovers that his life and his life’s work must impact that eternal dimension, otherwise it is meaningless. The path that God wants to lead us down is not always filled with roses or in my case, poetry, Jazz and a Brownstone in Brooklyn. The 17th century Puritan preacher and writer, John Bunyan, in the book Pilgrim’s Progress, masterfully depicts a life lived with the goal of eternity in mind. The path of the main character, Christian, is filled with difficult hills, dark valleys and evil personalities. But, as Christian states:
“This hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend,
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up, heart, let’s neither faint nor fear!
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.”
Like Jesus who endured the cross “for the joy set before Him,” Christians are called to do the same. Living for eternity is not a mystical concept. It’s a radical concept that should have practical implications. Each believer’s impact on eternity will look different in how he lives on the earth. For some it may mean selling all and moving to Africa, for others it may mean not marrying that handsome, rich guy who is so not a God lover. For others it may mean turning down that lucrative paying job because it would take you away from your duties to your family, or for others it may mean taking that lucrative paying job because the CEO and executives need to see Jesus in you. As the recent incident in Sutherland Springs, Texas demonstrated, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Tragedies like that should cause us to look introspectively at our lives.
When we stand before God at the end, would you hear him say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant?”