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Faithful Living: Love God and enjoy Him forever
All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed
to our trust on this condition: That they should be dispensed
for the benefit of our neighbors.
John Calvin (1509-1564)
It is a catechism I learned in class because I was required to learn it during a confirmation class my parents insisted I attend. The year was 1972 and I was a 13-year-old seventh grader attending a public middle school. I was not enthusiastic about attending the class or attending church in general because we had to drive across town to attend the functions. I distinctly recall telling my mother it was a waste of time driving all that way. I could not understand how learning church history and being able to explain basic church doctrines and tenants would help my personal life in any way.
Other attendees were Sunday school classmates, kids in the youth choir and fellow acolytes and they were not neighbors or classmates I socialized with on a daily basis. They were nice enough, but attended the rival middle school. I did not feel strongly connected to them, which you will recall is the highest of priorities at that stage of life.
I am quite sure my mother enjoyed every moment she hauled me to that confirmation class. What a cheerful teenaged daughter I must have been! I know she enjoyed waiting in the car or running errands because driving all the way back home, only to turn around and drive back through traffic an hour later to pick me up would have been wasteful and expensive. It was energy crisis time. Long lines at the gas pump. Great worries about global oil production. It was the first time I learned about Middle East oil cartels and how their decisions directly touched my familys financial resources.
In spite of their choice to increase the price of a barrel of oil, my mother snubbed the Saudis and drove me to that confirmation class every Thursday after school for weeks without fail. I had to familiarize myself with such weighty topics as the Reformation Movement and the Trinity. I was even required to provide, on command, an explanation for the Chief End of Man (mans ultimate purpose for living) referring, of course, to men and women, the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, people of color, those living yesterday, today and tomorrow as well as those residing here in the States or elsewhere in the world.
I will never forget the instructor. He would raise his Bible high and ask, What is the Chief End of Man?
It is to love God and enjoy Him forever! we would holler in unison.
The funny thing about memorizing scripture or spiritual wisdoms is the way it creeps into your heart and soul. It may lie unused in deep recesses for quite some time, but it is in there nonetheless. Eventually it will come darting out at the most amazing times.
The Chief End of Man came to me recently when I met the newly adopted baby daughter of some friends who recently traveled to China to claim her. As I rubbed her tiny hand, smiled and talked to her in English, I watched her expressive eyes and ready smile. I also considered the spiritual side of her life. I wondered how it is that after months of praying and preparing for just the right baby girl God would bring this most wondrous little bundle into their lives. As I contemplated what God has in mind for her new life in America that old phrase came back like a song: She is to love and enjoy God forever.
It is an easier said than done kind of proposition. In fact, it is easy to banter such a phrase about or shoot it back when tough times and tough questions come our way. But God does not want us to idly give voice to such phrases. He wants us to find ways to live passionately and with energy. He wants us to actively love Him not only when we feel like we are on top of the world, but also when we feel broken and hopeless and insignificant. He wants us to love Him by actively loving the people of this world.
We love God first out of obedience and our love for Him can begin by loving those with whom we live and work. This is a great time of year to give wings to our love. There is an endless list of children who can be served in varying ways. There are elderly among us with stories they would like to tell someone or a hand that longs to be held.
The more you look, the more opportunities you will see for serving Him. And in serving, we learn the lessons of love. Those old catechisms, once given only to memory, will come to life.
Freelance writer Joan Bay Klopes e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.