Nearly eight years ago, I took Intro. to Philosophy at Mississippi State with Dr. Michael Clifford. He scared me. I had heard that he could be rough on Christians, and when I saw the first assignment on our syllabus, I knew I was in trouble. In one paragraph, answer the question "What is the meaning of life?". I swallowed hard and dreaded the assignment, but that night, I sat down at my computer (the same one I'm typing on now, if you can believe it) and wrote the following words.
To understand the meaning of my life, you have to understand my God. I serve a holy and mighty God, and the sole purpose of my life is to glorify my Lord and Master; I live for nothing else. My life revolves around developing a deep and personal relationship with the One that I call Savior. Life on this earth is just the beginning of our existence; I will spend eternity in heaven with my Father. Maybe this sounds strange to you. Maybe it sounds familiar. Can I prove this to you? Well, no, I can’t, but I also can’t believe anything else is true... It would be a sad world if we had no reason for living. If everything ends at death, then what is the point of life at all? I have found truth in the teachings of the Holy Bible, and it is the standard I follow. I live my life by faith, trusting that a God higher than anything we can ever imagine has my life in his hands, and he knows what’s best for me. So, if you ask me the meaning of life, I can only give you one answer, and that is to serve my God.
I thought I could turn in my paper and escape without him knowing who I was, but to my horror, when I arrived in class, Dr. Clifford asked for volunteers to read their papers aloud. When crickets chirped in the background and no one stepped up, Dr. Clifford looked straight at me and told me to stand up as I read my paper aloud. My hands shook and my voice trembled, but somehow I managed to choke out the words of my paragraph and sit down as quickly as possible.
Silence followed, and then Dr. Clifford said, "Well, I guess we are in the middle of the Bible Belt," before calling on someone else.
I think I would be better equipped to handle the situation now, but when I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college, my professor intimidated me. I was relieved that he didn't rake me over the coals right then and there, and attending his class twice a week for the rest of the semester was the last thing I wanted to do. But I kept going to class and completing assignments that included debating the existence of God, learning about Plato's ideal forms, and reading Rene Descartes. In that class, I heard Karl Marx's famous quote about religion being the opiate of the masses. I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and learned the intelligent design theory, and by the time the semester ended, I emerged with faith intact and an A on my report card.
But at the beginning of the semester, standing in front of Dr. Clifford and proclaiming my faith was one of the most difficult things I had ever been asked to do. As I look back at the words I wrote for that class, I'm reminded that they are still true for me today. The meaning of my life hasn't changed over the past eight years. I still live to bring glory and honor to the God proclaimed in the Bible, and although I've got a seminary education under my belt and I've spent a lot more time thinking about the issues we talked about in that philosophy class I would still answer the question in the same way.
What about you? What do you think is the meaning of life?