I’m living my best life. Who all has heard this phrase? It seems to be a common phrase these days, shouted by teenagers, posted on memes, quoted in Instagram posts…but are we truly living our best life?
There was a time when I would have said I was living my best life. I was “happy”. I had good friendships, I lived it up through drinking doing drugs and I had a family who loved me. What more could I want? At that time, I would have had said nothing, because I told myself that’s all there was, however, deep down I knew that wasn’t true. There was a part of me that longed for something more, something bigger than myself. It never failed, as soon as I would get drunk or high my conversation always came around to God. If he existed, what the nature of the universe was, what TRUTH was…but then it would wear off and the conversation would dwindle, the comedown would kick in and then the next day I was back to riding the roller coaster of emotions and highs and lows. I never found the answer I was looking for, yet I continued to look in the same places. This continued for years and years. Every now and then I would maybe stumble onto some truth, but I was inundating myself with so much sensory input that it would be fleeting and inevitably slip through my hands. It was enough to keep me going back to the well, but inevitably spilling all of the water back down the hole…every single time. Then something changed. Something big changed. I can’t define it, nor can I really explain it. Only people who were near me might have an idea of what I’m talking about, but for lack of better words, my world came crashing down. Everything I thought I knew, suddenly became wrong. Everyone I thought loved me, my mind told me they didn’t. Every sentence I heard from others, suddenly became a joke and I was the punchline. I even thought that the two people who are closest to me, and know me better than anyone, were plotting to kill me. It was a hole that I almost didn’t escape. Luckily, I did. I got some professional help, and worked through some issues that (even though I did not realize it) were plaguing me since childhood.
The biggest thing I did, however, was discover God through the Bible and through Jesus.
Can I be honest with you though? I struggle saying this at times. Not because I don’t believe it, because trust me I do, full heartedly with all the conviction in the world. But I struggle to say it because the “old me” who I spoke about in the beginning of this story would have checked out right then and there, and he is the guy who needs to hear what’s coming in this message. So I’ve done a lot of thinking on this, and have distanced myself from the hell I experienced and with that has come some perspective. With this perspective I am going to attempt to explain to the skeptic, like I was, what I experienced when I was delivered from my former self.
It all starts with this: I am alive, the old Devane was dead. Not literally obviously. I’ve been breathing this whole time, so what do I mean? I was born into death, spiritual death. We all are. Maybe this isn’t a new concept to you, but it was to me. I mean, I knew we were all born sinners, I had been around the church enough to have heard this and growing up with normal humans experiencing this, but I didn’t realize this meant being born with a part of you already dead, your spirit. This goes all the way back to Genesis Ch.1 when the serpent deceives Eve. What does he say in order to deceive? “ You will not certainly die.” So what happens? Eve eats of the fruit, and so does Adam, and they do not die…literally. However after partaking, they hear God coming and what do they do? They hide themselves. But why? The story says because they knew they were naked, and I take that as literal but if you look a little deeper it is because they are ashamed that they disobeyed God. As a result of their actions, they were banished from the Garden of Eden, and with this comes separation from God or “death”.
Romans 5:12 puts it this way, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned.” The old me was completely ignorant to this fact. After all, I thought I was “living my best life.” What I didn’t realize, however, was that my “best life” consisted of distracting myself with a constant barrage of sensory inputs that merely fueled a dopamine addiction. So here lies what I consider my biggest hurdle in figuring out how to overcome this: how do you wake up when you don’t realize you are asleep? How do you know you’re dirty if you’ve never known what it is to take a bath? I don’t know. I know my awakening moment came in the form of a paradigm shattering mental break down, but I don’t think everyone has to experience something to that extreme in order to find God. Here is where telling your personal story becomes essential. Everyone who journey’s back to Eden takes a different path, and what makes our Christian life unique is how that path takes shape. One thing I would tell the skeptical Devane of the past, is that he shouldn’t be put off by people’s journeys that were not genuine.
I think in the world of social media, too often, I saw stories of people who found the lord but shortly fizzled out. This led me to question the source of the change instead of the person who experienced the change. So therefore, in my experience, for someone to truly become a Christian (who was against it) there is moment or a string of events that leads to true spiritual resuscitation. Jesus puts it this way in John 3:5 “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” I think the focus in this verse goes mostly to the Spirit, and rightfully so. After all, the Holy Spirit is the great helper and the defibrillator that shocks you back to spiritual life with God, but I haven’t heard many people elaborate on the water. In my research a lot of people point to the water as referring to physical baptism, and perhaps they are correct, but this would mean that physical baptism is necessary for salvation which I don’t think is the case. After all, why then, would Jesus refrain from baptizing people (John 4:2). For me, the water is the work and words of Jesus. Every bit of the Bible is useful in this experience, but the insight and knowledge that come through the red letters brings its own level of spiritual hydration that I have yet to find anywhere else. The amazing thing though, is that his words not only bring nourishment to your soul, but it also allows you to find and utilize the Holy Spirit which becomes a self-sustaining water source inside of yourself.
37 Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day,[a] Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds—“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! 38 Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing[b] from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!”[c] 39 Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive.
Therefore, as Jesus illustrated, to be brought back to life spiritually and regain admittance into Eden, you have to born again. Then once you find this new life you have to sustain it. The old me would have said, “What it isn’t just say the sinner’s prayer, ‘repent’ and go back to doing what you were doing?” No. It’s far from it. Once you taste spiritual life your eyes will begin to open all of your shortcomings, and at first this can be frightening. For me, my eyes were opened to so many things including realizing that I was addicted to dopamine in the form of drugs, porn, food, and even my phone. All of this time, I thought I chose when I partook in those things, however, Jesus revealed to me that those things chose when I partook in them. They were the masters, and I was the slave. The great thing about Jesus, though, is the grace that comes through accepting him as your lord. My initial thought was to define myself by them and be ashamed, but once you firmly grasp the concept of grace you can then forgive yourself of your past and then begin emptying the trash out of your life. This is the sustaining life I was referring to earlier. Jesus outlines this concept beautifully in the parable of the sower.
Jesus’s words have a way of working in any moment any part of your life, and for me this parable is no different. My walk with the lord followed a similar journey to what he describes in this parable. When I first heard of Christianity and the works of Jesus as a kid I was intrigued, however, these seeds were quickly plucked out by the enemy due to not being in a Christian household, or having the wherewithal to study on my own. My journey then took on the form of the rocky soil. After going through my first bout of depression and anxiety I found the Bible and began reading it. However, after doing it for some time the resistance to the Jesus increased in my life through deeper levels of doubts coupled with a lack of humility. Through this, I did not have the ability fight through the tribulations that come with being a new believer. Shortly after the being the rocky soil my Christian life to the form of the weedy soil. I had learned to overcome the enemy and doubts, but then “real life” came out me in the form of adulthood and troubles and instead of pressing further into God, I used it as an excuse to move further away from him. I was of the thinking that God was good in times of good but he couldn’t help when it came to the immediate day to day issues I struggled with in being a husband and a parent. Finally, as I began to truly study and gain a personal relationship with the lord my Christian life took the form of the good soil. I began to become disciplined in my daily scripture study. I learned how to pray, when to pray, and what to pray for. I learned how much sin was polluting my life, and how to get rid of it. After becoming “good soil” the general hardships didn’t cease, but I was able to handle them better than ever before. Also, my relationship with God began to grow in leaps and bounds. I was able to experience him like never before, and in a way that I never knew was possible. He was no longer a bearded father in the sky who I feared I was angering, but he was the all-knowing all loving God who walked with me throughout my day. This is something that the old me, and I think a lot of doubters get wrong when searching for God. Too many of them, including myself, want to being able to experience God in a way that you know he is there, but they do not want to do the work to make themselves fertile ground for his spirit to able to take hold in. To truly experience God you have to humble yourself, admit you need to change, and then work diligently to do it. He will be with through the journey, but will truly reveal himself to you when you are ready.
So in order to illustrate my point a little more clearly, let’s recap what we have learned so far. During the fall of Adam, we were found naked, which caused us (human kind) to hide from God in shame. This was our spiritual death. From this, we learned that in order to bring ourselves back to life we have to be born again, of both water and the spirit. We then have to cultivate life by making ourselves fertile ground for the spirit of the lord to grow strong and mature. Once we reach spiritual life, and then maturity in our spiritual life we are then prepared for our final destination-- Reentry into the Garden of Eden. Heaven. This, however, doesn’t happen in this body, but in our heavenly body that is fully clothed via spirit. This time, though, we do not come to God in our clothing ashamed, but we come clothed in our heavenly body that he made for us.
2 Corinthians 5
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life
Therefore, as long as we are on this Earth, we will experience strife and conflict. That is ok, though, because it is part of being away from God. It is also a way to build our faith in what is to come. God, however, does not leave us unequipped to handle adversity in this world. After you come back home he gives you the gift of the spirit. This is the believers’ secret weapon, and the down payment for reentry into Eden.
5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Not only does it guarantee what is to come, but it also anoints us with gifts that equip us to overcome challenges, and help wake our sleeping brethren.
How amazing is this? Not all super heroes wear capes, and by finding yourself in Christ you can become a hero to those who need you most: the people all around you. Once you have the spirit, these gift will begin to manifest within you based on what you are going through, and what you intentionally cultivate. This is how you live your best life. You don’t simply go from one good time to the next, filling the time in between. You recreate yourself, with the help of Christ, into the super hero you are destined to be and then you help those closest to you do the same. That brings a life of love, sustainability, and fulfillment. That is what life is all about.