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Climbing Veritas MountainOne Man's Journey with the Lord
By Ryan Paul Young
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Ryan Paul Young
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE MEANING OF LIFE
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock ... time. I started to think a lot about time when I was just beginning high school. Time was passing and passing by quickly and I didn't have a point to my life. I found myself locked in a routine. We all know about routines. Mine consisted of waking up before sunrise to the obnoxious beeping of my alarm clock, showering in cold water (I was always competing for hot water with my six sisters), eating nearly the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch, waiting for the bus, going to class, working after school, watching TV, talking to friends and then repeating the same pointless routine, day after day after day. I never enjoyed doing anything in my life unless I had a reason and at that time, without a purpose, I ultimately didn't enjoy doing much at all. At the end of my days I knew I was going to die. Whether I liked it or not, this was a hard, cold fact. Why bother with the effort of life if it would all end anyway? Without a reason to my life, I was living a life without peace and joy. I felt empty.
Before having purpose and meaning to my life, I had moments of "happiness." These moments would even be experienced during times of sin. I would feel happy when I felt "full" emotionally, physically, and mentally. The problem with my life and my actions at that time was that the happiness that I experienced was fleeting and brief. I was always looking for the next big fix, which might be experienced with one more vacation, one more material good, one more girlfriend, one more achieved earthly success. I was never able to sustain that feeling of "happiness" and would always return to that inner void of emptiness. What I really sought was meaning and purpose to my life.
I call it the "Superbowl Syndrome." Imagine a professional athlete practicing football his whole life and finally making the NFL. After years in the NFL, he finally makes it on a team that wins a lot of games. He gives it his all throughout the season, diving and fighting for the ball. He finally makes it to the Superbowl and his team wins. He experiences absolute jubilation and 'happiness' for about five minutes. He then asks himself, "now what?" I had to reevaluate. What were my 'Superbowl' ambitions? Were my objectives lasting objectives?
Since then I have observed thousands of people, of all ages, wandering through life the way I did in high school. I used to work in New York City and commute every day on the train. People in suits would be holding the same kind of coffee in one hand, with the same newspaper in the other, and would know the exact spot where the train door would open once it would finally arrive. They would enter the train and sit in the same seat they always used, turn to their left and say, "Good morning Fred," then to their right and say, "Good morning Susie." It is not that I perceived routine as evil. Rather it is routine without purpose and meaning that kills our spiritual being. It was like a "rat race" where the rat wasn't even really in a race but was running on a treadmill and going nowhere. It was on this commute that I thought about how far the Lord had taken me up to that point in time. I realized with joy that I had been spared becoming a machine. In finding purpose, I jumped off of the conveyer belt of pointless routine. I had been spared spiritual death.
I was able to avoid that fate because I stopped to ask the question: Why? Why are we here? What is the point of life? I believe all humans have asked these questions consciously or subconsciously at some time during their life. I believe we are all built with a consuming hunger for the Truth.
The first question I think we must all address is as follows: Is there is a God? If I saw a piece of trash, such as a cardboard box, lying on the sidewalk, would I think that the box existed by mere chance? Would I truly believe that different organic material such as trees spontaneously broke down into an evolutionary cycle of organic soup and through millions of years formed itself into a cardboard box? Or would I just think to myself, "WHO put the cardboard box in the middle of the sidewalk?" As simple as a box is, I would logically assume that someone made and designed that box. Similarly, I can't look at a human being without awe knowing the complexity of our design. Logically, there has to be a designer. After all, am I not more complicated than a cardboard box?
Thinking of it a different way; is it realistic to imagine a tornado blowing through a junkyard and, through chance alone, creating a 747 airliner with all of the working circuit boards and capacity to fly? I don't look at an airplane and think to myself, "Boy, the Big Bang really did a terrific job in creating that aircraft." Logically, I would have some faith that this 747 must be the design of some engineer. I would marvel at the engineer that could create such an amazing thing. Am I not more complex than a 747 airplane?
Human beings are not only built with created matter which allows us to function and move, but we have also been built with life. We have the capacity to think, love, communicate, dream, laugh, cry, empathize, hope, forgive, create, and feel. You can't get these abilities in a rock or atom or molecule independently. There must be a creator.
The fact that we were designed so well is amazing but our maintained existence is also a miracle in and of itself. In my professional life, I work in the field of medicine. It is surprising to see how easy it is to die. It is incredible how many parts have to work perfectly for us to be able to live. If one organ system is not perfect, we die. The fact that our heart beats without our effort 60-100 beats per minute and if it stops for several minutes we die, that is a miracle. The fact that we go through our entire lives able to breathe air and if we were to stop breathing for several minutes we die, that is a miracle. Our body's capacity to repair cells automatically when we heal is a miracle. Knowing what I know about the human body and about what can go wrong with our bodies, I can't believe we can actually live to be 100 years of age.
The whole notion that we can exist without God, our designer and engineer, is rather absurd to me. It simply does not follow basic rules of "science." One such scientific rule is that something cannot come from nothing. Even with the argument that the matter in the "Big Bang" could have existed forever (which I don't believe), it still does not explain how the matter of the universe spontaneously and accidentally could create life, let alone create a life form that possesses the ability to think and love.
Professionally, I am also a scientist of sorts. I think the world mistakenly perceives that science is the attempt to disprove the existence of God. I believe that science is the study of the creation of God. As I look at science in that light, it completely enhances my knowledge of God and Creation and consequently, my relationship with God deepens even further. I am able to marvel at His grandeur in space, the environment, and our bodies.
I am not alone in this view of science. Many scientists initially set out to disprove God and then discovered in their scientific pursuit that the mathematical possibility of us existing without Him is essentially impossible. I would argue that it would require far more "faith" to be an atheist than to be someone who acknowledges the existence of God.
What about evolution? I don't think it matters. Evolution does not disprove God. You would still need God to create something before that something could evolve. You would still need order and oversight to keep life in existence. If God created the universe and that universe evolved with God's oversight, who cares whether or not evolution exists? The Truth is He created us either way.
In my experience, I have found that God has made man "in His image and likeness." (Gen1:26) There are many aspects of this belief, but one part of that likeness is our ability to create. Keep in mind that man cannot create independently. We cannot make something from nothing. We can only change creation's form. For example, we can create a pottery bowl from clay; we cannot create the clay itself from nothing. In essence, God allows us to co-create with Him and, in doing so, we can hopefully understand Him better.
After we conclude that God must exist, I still questioned, "why me?" Why did He create me? Why give us this life? In my observation of people, I came to a startling realization: we have been given everything that identifies us. We were born into our bodies, our looks, talents, family, country, wealth, station, everything. We had no control over any of these things at birth. We have limited control over these realities even as we get older. Whether you were born predisposed to being rich, poor, fat, skinny, ugly, gorgeous, psychologically imbalanced, stupid, intelligent, or any combination thereof, we all have only one thing in common from birth: our free will. The only common attribute of all human beings is the ability to choose, moment to moment, what we are going to do with the station, talents, looks, intelligence, wealth, and so forth that we have been given. This Truth brought me to understand the meaning of life. THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO CHOOSE GOD!!!!
We have been given this split second, this blink of eternity's eye, to make a choice. Again, I found that if I believe in God and understand that my only possession is my free will, what else could this life be for? Think about it for a minute; if you loved someone, would you force them to be with you for eternity? Can there be love without freedom to choose it? If God were to create us without choice and chain us to Heaven's wall, could you call that love or would it become slavery?
In order for us to have the capacity to love, we must have the choice of not loving. Love itself cannot exist without a free-will. Once I understood that my purpose in life is this decision to choose Him, to choose Love, everything came into focus. Now there is a reason for my existence. Now there is a purpose to every breath I take on a daily basis. Now there is a reason for every action and decision I make. Life has become a lot more fun.
Once I found that Heaven is my objective, my entire "priority list of life" changed. My relationship with God and His mission for me now takes precedence over all my former "worldly" goals. The truth is that if I am the most "successful" individual in every earthly way, including family, money, power, education, and earthly influence, and if I die and have not chosen God, my entire life has been an utter waste.
Now, the priority of my life is to strive for eternity with God. That priority influences every decision I make. This influenced which college I attended, who I decided to marry, what major I chose in college, my political affiliation ... everything. There is no decision on earth that would warrant ignoring the objective of Heaven and choosing God.
This concept of striving to make eternity with God the priority of my life has changed my entire decision making process. For example, these principles even applied to picking my children's school. Heaven is clearly the priority of the school we chose. The children are very innocent and hopefully maintain that childlike innocence through the eighth grade. Let's imagine that the academic education was not stellar and there were more challenging academic options. Ultimately, I would have an internal debate about what is more important, my child's mind or their soul. I would then come to the ultimate question, "If my children were the smartest people in Hell, have I done my job as their father?"
In understanding the meaning of life, I now experience joy. The difference between happiness and joy is that joy lasts. I perpetually feel good at my emotional baseline. I feel other emotions like sadness, anger, jealousy, happiness, ambition, inadequacy, and so forth, but at my baseline, I always return to joy. I have peace. I know where I came from and where I am going. The journey of life has become easier and now I feel like I am moving downhill.
Not everyone in the world has worldly freedom. Some people are born into tyranny. However, with a free will, we can all have spiritual freedom. We have the freedom to use our free will in every situation, good or bad, and we have the freedom to use our free will to choose God ... or not.
Please don't think I am saying that if you understand the meaning of your life, you will not suffer. The truth is quite different. The truth is that even while suffering-if you and I understand that in every moment of every day we have an opportunity to choose God-we can be joyful in that suffering. This was shown by the first Christian martyrs as they were burned alive or fed to lions in the Coliseum. They were joyful and singing at their deaths. That joy and exuberance caused many observers to convert to Christianity. Another example is that of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He was incarcerated in a concentration camp during World War II. He tried at every moment, good and bad, to choose God. He maintained such a level of joy and holiness that many, including his cell mates, were converted to Christianity through their recognition of his joy. The point is this: if you constantly choose God, you will have peace and joy at all times, in every situation. It was when I realized the meaning of my life that my adventure with the Lord began.
It is 8:23am in Baghdad Iraq. This day, my mission and the fulfillment and culmination of my life will reach its apex. Thirteen minutes left. I am excited and anxious at this moment. I can feel the sweat of my body covering my forehead under my turban and running down my back. I don't know if I am sweating because of the stifling heat? I don't know if it's from the weight of my deliverance buckled around my waist? I don't know if it's from fear? I am so petrified that I can taste bile in my mouth. Regardless, the harem that awaits me in heaven as promised by my earthly spiritual guide, Mohammed Al Jahiff, is worth a bit of sweat and fear. I finally received the call by cell phone last night. I have prepared my whole life for this moment at my madrasa and I will not fail. These American infidels and Iraqi traitors of Islam are about to be defeated. I feel honored that I can play a role in this holy Jihad. Here comes my target. These guys have no idea about what is about to hit them. It is time to reach for the trigger. Three, two, one, Praise ALLAH!..... BOOM!
This teenage Islamic male just died believing he was choosing God. Was he? How do we know? What is our standard for that perfect choice? Many will read that story and start a mental series of justifications for why they don't believe in "organized religion." They convince themselves to suspend the search for Truth altogether, and continue going out of their way to avoid God as much as possible. They will choose to live life without meaning or purpose, choosing a finite life of emptiness and ignorance and will ignore the bigger picture. This is frequently acted out with a public display of false spiritual humility with statements like, "How can I even begin to try to know or understand anything about something as great as God" ... trying to be "humble" through ignorance and avoidance of reason. In reality, most of these "intellectuals" are just spiritually lazy.
What is ironic about this is that these same intellectuals generally argue that they believe in the concept of good and evil. They generally agree that the concepts of the Ten Commandments and charity and so forth are "good acts." This basic understanding of good and evil is also called "Natural Law." Natural Law is an imprint God has placed on the heart of every human being to help identify the basics of good versus evil. If one believes in good and evil, inherently they must also believe in God because otherwise "good" would not be defined by anything and there would be chaos. Without God, there is no order. Without God, there is no Truth. Without God, there is no such thing as good and evil.
I do not believe God would create us and give us a free will to then abandon us to live lives without purpose or meaning. God gave us the perfect standard. He gave us "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." (Jn 14:16) He gave us Himself as Jesus Christ. You could not find an example more perfect than God himself. No longer is the choice for God ambiguous. No longer is Truth some vague, abstract, unattainable idea.
Excerpted from Climbing Veritas Mountain by Ryan Paul Young Copyright © 2010 by Ryan Paul Young. Excerpted by permission.
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