What does Spirituality mean to me?
“Everyone is on a spiritual path; most people just don’t know it.”
“Having been born and raised in a Christian home, you would think I had it all figured out, but my biggest problem was guilt, in spite of all that I heard in churches.”
As I have considered the question of what spirituality means to me, I thought about the following scenario. If my doctor told me, “You have a certain health issue, and you have just one more day to live. In twenty-four hours, your life on this earth will be over”. How I understand spirituality is shaped by my response to the question of “What happens when I die and am I prepared to meet my Maker when I die?”
I have lived fifty-eight years on this earth, and I am what one would call a skeptic. Whatever I see, hear and perceive is filtered through my own sense of skepticism. This skeptical outlook has caused me to look at every thing closely and walk away from many things. If an issue did not make it through the skeptical filter in my life, I did not waste one more minute on that endeavor. I have found enjoying the Fort Lauderdale beach is more enjoyable than someone or something that does not meet that the standard of my skeptical lenses.
Is there a god? Which religion makes sense? Considering each of the religious founders, who lived a life that is worth following and left a legacy that has endured time? Those were the questions I was grappling with and running through the filter of my skepticism when considering the scenario of only having 24 hours to live?
Having been born and raised in a Christian home, you would think I had it all figured out, but my biggest problem was guilt, in spite of all that I heard in churches. Many people go through life like those in a cartoon call “Born Loser”. These two guys are lying on a beach, both with a rather large midsection. One goes “I managed this vacation on a fire insurance claim of $20,000 that I received on my house”. The other guy says “Same here, only mine was a $40,000 reimbursement on a flood insurance claim”. So the first guy, who seems totally outdone by the second guy, asks “So how do you start a flood?” They had no sense of guilt.
While arson on my house or creating a flood was not what I was trying to do to make more money, there were enough events in my life that I just could not forget. As an 11 year old, I remember visiting my sister’s house and seeing this 1 rupee on a table. I decided to take it. Later, everybody was looking for this 1 rupee, and no one knows where it was. Of course, I was not going to admit it was in my pocket. The next day, on my way to school, I decided to spend that rupee on an Indian delicacy. Eating that delicacy, which should have been such a delight for me, somehow tasted more like gravel in my mouth than sweet.
Although forty-seven years have gone since that incident, I could tell you every detail of that little misadventure of my life even now. Why could I not enjoy that stolen delicacy? Why such guilt and shame over the one rupee that I stole? That one incident was small compared to the rest of my life. My own greed, selfish ambition, pride, judgmental attitude, lying, anger, hatred, and every time I took something that did not belong to me: whether it was a questionable deduction on my tax return or an impure glance at a woman who is not my wife, it all led to that same feeling of guilt and shame. The problem is my heart, which no one sees but God. That was the problem that I could not solve myself, nor could I find someone to really correct it. I just wanted a clean heart and a clean mind, I just wanted by thinking to be cleaned up; but with all the baggage of my life it was not an easy task. I had no one to whom I could turn.
If you grew up in India, you know what I am talking about. If you are a skeptic and have a tendency to question everything, India is not that hospitable, especially when it comes to questions about faith. “Going along to get along” was the motto there. With my skeptical attitude and with a twenty-four hour life and death scenario in my mind, the Sunday morning religion seemed like a lot of noise pollution, and church, regardless of denomination, did not have much value in my thought process.
Even after I came to this country and lived and worshipped among Christians of both East and the West, I felt the undercurrent of materialism of the 20th century to be seen as some kind of godliness. You know what I am talking about, the greed for more and more, the bigger house, bigger car, the latest in electronics, your children who must perfect, with an Ivy league education, who then become world class doctors. Believe it or not, many Christians actually believe that if you are such a person, then you are the godliest of people. So the striving was for more and more and more.
I compared this with what I read in the Bible. I read of what happened to Jesus Christ when he told the truth, and I also know what happened to all His disciples who told people to live a righteous life. I observed what the Bible described as godliness. So this correlation of materialism as godliness with some Christians was not making any sense to me when compared to the Christians in the Bible.
So my own journey was that I must accomplish things and build a name for myself. Climbing the corporate ladder, accumulating wealth, fame, material possessions and, most of all, have a positive attitude in my life was what I was living for. The god of money, fame, possessions and impressing others was what I pursued, so when I was gone, at least handful of people will remember me.
Since I came to this world with a skeptical mindset, following the crowd was never an option. Living with the standards other set for me did not make a whole lot of sense either. So with a skeptical mind and little regard for mindless words of others, I had to do some real soul searching to try and reconcile my life with this twenty-four hour life/death scenario swirling in my mind.
After all the searching, reading, thinking, talking with others, and investigating of how to prepare for death, it led to one conclusion: this Jesus of the Bible might be the answer. However, my skeptical mind had to be convinced that the Jesus Christ of the Bible was God; that He came to this world to die on a cross to take the punishment for my sins and the sins of the all humanity, to make everyone who believes become right with God, and the guilt and shame of a persons heart can be removed. Over time, I became convinced that no matter how other Christians choose to live their life, the Jesus Christ of the Bible was my only hope.
Once my faith in Christ broke through my skepticism, my life started to have meaning. I chose to live not to accumulate wealth or impress people, but I get up in the morning asking Jesus Christ to help me to live the kind of life He would want me to live. Every detail of life, on a 24 /7 basis: how I conduct my business, how I treat my family and friends, how I drive on the South Florida roads, all of it; I chose to do as Jesus Christ would want me to do and to be. Throughout my day, I have constant communication going on with Jesus Christ in all my affairs, like a friend telling a friend what is in my mind and correcting things in my life as He points out what needs to be corrected.
It took a very long time to have that dialogue and relationship with Jesus Christ in my life because, like many people, I am really turned off by so many Christians who say they are followers of Christ, but their life does not look any different than anyone else’s life. Most people are not impressed with a lot of these Sunday morning people who talk about being a Christian, but live like everyone else. However, once you get the taste of a life with Jesus; it is like drinking daily from a Living water fountain. It is the greatest life one can live.
Everyone experiences the same events in life. You have births and deaths, plenty and want, happiness and sorrow. You see, these are fact of life; but if a doctor told you that you have just 24 hours to live, what would you do? Considering all your material possession, your education, your status in the community, your financial portfolio: do any of these things really matter to you in light of what happens when you die?
Everyone, when they can steal a quiet moment and truly reflect on their life, has sensed that shame and guilt inside of them. When that sense of shame and guilt is seen in light of the fact that one day all of us must face death and meet our Maker, who will judge us according to how we lived, will be faced with a question. The question is, “What will be your answer be before the Judge?” For me, having that friend-to-friend relationship with Jesus Christ was my answer to the twenty-four hours to live scenario and the relief from the burden of my guilt and shame.
So whether my life should end in 24 hours or in 40 years it will make absolutely no difference to me. A man with desire to follow God completely wrote the following poem.
Lord, it belongs not to my care
whether I live or die
to love and to serve thee is my share
for this thy grace must give
If life be long, I will be glad
that I may long obey
if short then why should I be sad
to soar to an endless day
So that is also my prayer. To obey and please the God who created me and died for me on the cross 2000 years ago to take the my wrongs, guilt and shame of my life and prepare a home for me in heaven.
My friend, if you have read this far, you are probably a skeptic like me. You may be wrestling with the some of the same questions I had about feelings of guilt and shame, what happens when a person dies, or even understanding the complexities of our universe. You hear me talking about Jesus as being the center of what spirituality means to me, but at the same time, the person of Jesus Christ has been a puzzle to you. Who is this man called Jesus? Is He like the person that I have heard about from others, or is there a more objective way of learning more about Him?
You should know that the joy I have in my life from discovering the answers to these questions, also drives me to tell others how to have this same joy. I would tell you to not just take my words and then walk away from these truths. Examine this person named Jesus for yourself.
Here is my suggestion, go to the nearest bookstore and buy a Bible and read it yourself. Read the four books in the middle of the Bible called Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will tell you all you want to know about Jesus Christ. I would like to invite you to come to my church (First Baptist Church at Weston) on Sunday morning to our 9:00 or 10:15 AM services and hear more about this Jesus Christ. You can also learn more about Jesus Christ from my pastor, Dr. Rob Peters, by listening to his weekly sermon on the Internet by clicking on www.fbcweston.org and click on “Pastor’s message.”
E. C. Samuel and his wife Mariamma grew up in Kerala, India and are residents of S. Florida. They have two grown sons: Scott with his wife Betsy and Stephen with his wife Sherin, who live in Austin, Texas. The Samuels split their time between Florida and Texas. Mr. Samuel spend most of his professional life with Hammermill Paper co and its subsidiaries in Financial and operational management responsibilities in Miami, Florida. Erie, Pennsylvania. Overland Park, Kansas. and Dallas, Texas. He now manages his graphic arts business in S. Florida If you have any question on this article and faith in Jesus Christ or a want a Bible so you can learn more about this Jesus Christ, please write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org