“Bob Marley asked: ‘
First off, I have never been a fan of Bob Marley. There seems to be a fascination among listeners of rock ‘n’ roll with people who have rough singing styles – I’m thinking particularly of Bob Dylan, as well as Bob Marley – and that is not a style I admire. So ordinarily, I would have given this prompt a pass. However, not only is it an intriguing question, but I happen to know about Bob Marley that in the last year of his life, he became an Orthodox Christian. So clearly, there was some depth to the man that I missed entirely, which isn’t difficult to do if you blow off people on the basis of their appearance. (Note to self: Stop judging books by their covers, even if the cover often does prove to be of particular relevance.) And therefore, this question isn’t just a throwaway question, of the kind that rockers so often put into their lyrics and then dismiss entirely by their personal example.
So. The answer. Well…it probably isn’t really fair to answer this question at my age. Are there really people in their sixties who are dissatisfied with life? I mean, couldn’t you have figured out long before now that something was missing, and at least begun to do something about it?
I love the life I live. And I look back, and see that even the mistakes I made were worthwhile, and led to the life I now live. But I hasten to add: Under no circumstances could I remotely call my life “self-actualized,” a term a feminist once used. She told me I was the most “self-actualized” person she had ever met, and I often wonder, as I did at the time, what she would say if I told her that there was nothing self-actualized about my life; since my first encounter with the living God at the age of 21, it has been entirely a God-actualized life, and that is what has made it so worthwhile.
Even my marriage. The priest who hears my confessions once said to me, “Nobody held a gun to our heads to make us get married.” When I responded, “Welllll…” did his eyebrows shoot up! No, nobody held a gun to my head; but neither was it anywhere in my game plan to get married. I wanted to be a nun. Thing is, when you give your life into God’s hands, the only thing you can do is sit back and hang onto your hat, because the ride gets really wild from that point on. Roller-coaster wild. Terrifying, heart-breaking, ecstatic, jaw-dropping wild. And when the thing finally slows down and comes to a halt, you look back over the mountains and valleys and think, “I gotta do that again!!”
A number of sermons this priest has recently preached have brought home to me that if you lead a God-centered life, you find, eventually, that you become more genuinely you. People think that giving your life to God means you can’t have any more fun; I keep thinking of that line from Only the Good Die Young, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints – sinners have more fun.” Maybe. But sooner or later, every person I’ve ever known who was dedicated to a life of Having Fun, or Having It All, came to a point where he asked, “Is that all there is?”
And – no. That’s not all there is. There’s a whole You left unexplored, the You that you were created to be. Life in God means becoming more authentically You, uncovering your greatest skills and talents and learning how to use them for your own enjoyment and the benefit of those around you. And, in the process, finding other skills and talents you had no idea you possessed, and developing and using them.
As my life winds down, I look back, I look within – and I look up. With tears of wonder and gratitude in my eyes, and an enormous smile on my lips, and a song of thanksgiving in my soul, I can say: I am more than satisfied with the life I lead. I am grateful. I hope that Bob Marley got to that point, too.