Well, let's change gears completely!
I had what some would call a spritual experience last Friday. Fear not, dear readers--this is not going to be a call to arms for Jesus. Make no mistake, I believe I saw God, but I don't think I saw Mary in a pancake. I simply had a moment when the physical world sort of...fell away. What was left was God. Make of that what you will.
What I took away from this moment of seeing God was that the number one aim of my life is to praise and serve God. This isn't an easy answer, but it is one that makes complete sense to me somewhere in my bones, whether or not I understand what the specifics entail. However I am called back to a quote from, yes, The Bible: "Faith without works is dead."
Some believe that we do good works as a way to buy our way into heaven. Some believe that no amount of good works earn grace. Grace is offered to all, and the only way to receive it is to accept it. But if one believes in this second version of grace--and that would be me--one still believes that there is a difference between a said faith and a lived faith. I invite anyone reading this to dispose of the idea that the God of which I speak must be of a particular kind. I have so far quoted a Judeo-Christian text and spoken of grace, but these concepts need not be limited. We find versions of them outside the faith.
I could say it is a comfort to me that I have experienced the presence of God. If I believe, though, that faith without works is dead, then this is more than a simple state of grace. If I truly believe what I say I believe, then I will feel called to be a better person. Again, not going to argue here about what that means, but think of it this way: If I claim to love someone, I believe I am then called to act as if I love them. Saying, "I love you," to someone and then treating them awfully (willfully breaking promises, disregarding their feelings, wishing only for them to please me without a thought to their own desires, refusing to be of help when they need it) is an example of a said faith rather than a living one. How many times have we said these words when what we really mean is that we want to posess the other person? It does us no good to love without trying to cultivate the fruits of love.
Explaining my experience to someone, they responded that I should "soak it in." I should revel in the feeling of what I call grace. However, I walked away from it with a new desire to serve God as a due course of my faith. I love to talk about the ideas of what we should and shouldn't be doing. I, like almost everyone, prefer to keep this conversation going in such a way as to let you know what you should be doing. I fail at these things myself. I am not an awful person by any means, but I could work harder at holding myself in line with what I believe to be God's will for me--that I should be honest, trustworthy, loving, helpful, kind, conscientious, compassionate. I have a tendency to waste my employer's time. This is not in keeping with any of the things I listed above. It is in matters like these that it is easy to slip, and make no mistake--I do not believe that I should be given the lash for such transgressions. I do, however, believe that my faith in those aforementioned higher ideals can help me make better choices if I keep them in mind. It still won't be easy, but who said that the things worth doing in life were all easy?
Even I, an ardent proponent of taking time to enjoy this life, know that some things are worth working for.
Of course, here comes the argument that one need not believe in God to be a better person. I do not argue otherwise. It is much like the rectangle/square thing. A square is a kind of rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. One can believe in all of those listed ideals and NOT believe in God. However, one who believes in God but is not actively pursuing those ideals is not bearing the fruit of his faith. This isn't to be taken as a condemnation but as a jumping off place for growing as an individual. It is a wake-up call, not a declaration of evil. We have every moment of our life available to us to make even the slightest change in how we choose to live. Sometimes we need our attention called to these matters. We don't ever need anyone to tell us what to do.