One of the things I never understood about Christianity was the concept of accepting people who embraced the religion late in life. It struck me as unfair and hypocritical that someone could have all the fun they want then decide at the last minute that they’re a Christian. When I first started reading Christian authors, this was actually something that nagged at the back of my mind. Not that I would ever fall into this mostly silly belief system, I thought, but if hypothetically I did decide to become a Christian, it would just seem so unfair that I could get to be in heaven right alongside a devout lifetime church-goer who had lived her whole life following all the “rules”.
I was starting to think that religion, Christianity in particular, offered some interesting insights about the meaning of life and might be worth looking into. But then I thought of my years making (and spending) lots of money, living only for myself, indulging in vanity and greed and whatever else I felt like doing, staying all night at wild parties, not being confined by anyone’s oppressive rules, etc. and felt sorry for people who never got a chance to live a little like I had before getting mixed up in all the religion stuff.
But as my reading and soul-searching drew me closer to God and the Church, I began to see it all so differently. What I used to think of as rules of oppression created by power-hungry people, I now saw as a prescription for healing given by the perfect Doctor. And when I actually followed the prescription and took the Doctor’s advice, I knew that this was something rooted in divine goodness.
I was reminded of all this during my confession last night.
As I described for the priest all the “fun” that I’d had, my old life of decadence and selfishness, I was overcome with sorrow. In part because I’d offended God, the source of all goodness, but also in part because I felt sad for me. It was sickening to think of all the years I threw away in pursuit of a fragile happiness, the kind of surface-level contentment that goes away pretty quickly when things like money or looks or health start to fade. My life without meaning, without purpose, without a belief in objective truth, seemed like a desolate wasteland when I looked back on it. I cried that night in confession because I was sorry to God, and also because I was sorry to me.
And now, as with so many other things that used to seem hypocritical or restrictive, I finally get it. Those of us who come to faith late in life are not getting a better deal than those who believed all along. We’re getting a far worse deal. When you finally experience the peace of Christ, you realize that every day without it is a day to be regretted.