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Death should be seen as a reminder that our time on earth is limited and valuable, which should cause us to try harder to do something worthwhile in this life. But death can often be seen as an easy way out... a way to escape responsibility. Your debts are a mile high; the kids are a constant source of stress; your girlfriend or wife has left you; you were made redundant at work; you have lost the use of your body from the neck down; global warming is destroying the planet; and so on. It's easy to think, "What's the point of living? Why bother being part of the problem?" These days, I prefer to think that someone, somewhere, is worse off than I am, and that I can contribute to making the world a better place. But I didn't always think that way.

Nothing Lasts Forever (Except God)

I first faced death when I was 15 years old. I almost drowned. Around the same time, my grandmother died and I was a pallbearer at her funeral. A close relative tried to kill herself with an overdose. Her attempted suicide was, however, never talked about in the family... just more evidence of everyone's inability to confront such realities.

My school life was affected by the turmoil that I was going through, and I was getting into trouble with all forms of disciplinarians at school, at home and with the police.

Once I became fully aware, as a teenager, that I was eventually going to die, I became depressed. This was because I knew that what I was doing was not making the world a better place. I have been obsessed with death ever since.

Teenage suicide rates have increased in most of the developed world. I tried to go down the same path. I somehow got the idea that I wouldn't live until I was 21 years old. Since my life was heading toward death anyway, why shouldn't I just hasten the inevitable? The world had nothing to offer, and I had nothing to offer it, or at least so I thought. All this shit, was going on inside of me. Who could I share it with? No one wanted to talk about such things. So I tried, unsuccessfully, to kill myself when I was 18 years old.

Having failed to take my life, I turned to searching for answers in other ways. My search began with me trying drugs to escape unpleasant realities.

Like so many others in the Western world, I wanted to avoid questions for which I did not have answers. Taking drugs, getting blind drunk, sleeping around, and driving recklessly to impress friends were some of the ways to do that. Teenagers are experts at ignoring what they already know, and living like they are never going to die.

I also tried to be a good church goer (mostly on the Pentecostal side of the church world). I applied to join a Bible college and I wrote to the late Keith Green's 'Last Day Ministries' in Texas. The Hare Krishnas were also on my list of 'let's see what they have to offer'. I didn't want to leave one stone unturned. I was looking for meaning in my life.

Encounter with LIFE!

I was 20 years old when I came face to face with God. At that time, I was in a drug induced state. I was lying on the ground, unable to get up because of the drugs I had taken. It felt like I was falling into hell. I thought I heard an audible voice saying "Why do you want to keep hurting yourself?"

Yes, why did I want to keep hurting myself? I should have understood that it was a clear sign to stop seeing death as a negative hurtful thing, and to get on with my life... i.e. to stop hurting myself and help myself by helping others.

But I didn't. It was to be three more years, after I had been through more drug sessions, had sex for the first time, and had other experiences that the school of hard knocks meted out to me, before I would come to my senses.

Not long after that encounter with God, I met a member of a Christian community. It was during my 21st year. Roland invited me back to the community's flat in Sydney, Australia. I later discovered that the rest of the community thought I was pretty crazy, and Roland was criticised for bringing someone home who was obviously in such an unstable mental state. I was asked to leave when I showed no signs of being interested in listening to what they said. I was quite introverted and didn't communicate with people very well in those days. My social skills had been damaged because I had been focusing my search for meaning entirely within my own feelings.

For three years (after my encounter with God and the Jesus Christians) I sought a materialistic answer to life. I tried to get a "good" job, and to find "financial stability". I was about to go for further training in the management of a hostel I had been helping to run, when I realised that life was more than just the material. I was about to go down a different road... that of gaining as much pleasure as I could... a life that most of my peers were going down, or at least had been down.

However, I had kept writing to Roland's community over those three years. I compared my two options (materialism or hedonism) with the teachings that had been presented to me at their little flat in Sydney. I had been trying to work out, despite having a mixed up mind, where these teachings were coming from and where they were going. I decided to give what they were saying a try.

A Reason for Living

I moved to Sydney and was allowed to live in this Christian community for one week. At the end of the week, I decided to work with them full-time. Life was beginning to start again!

A year after joining, I went to India. Two weeks after my arrival in India, I found myself in a situation where my life and the lives of the rest of the community I was living with were seriously threatened. (See The Great Escape for details.) We had to flee for our lives. I was then 24 years old, but this time I had a reason to live that was worth dying for. Death didn't seem to be such a big worry any more.

So what had happened since my last encounter with death? I had found a purpose for living. I had found that we are put on this earth to love God and to love others; and until we throw ourselves totally into that mission, we will never be truly satisfied.

Each of us needs to discover purpose in life, but bitter experience in the school of hard knocks doesn't have to be part of it!

I am now 39 years old and nearing a time in my life called "mid-life crisis". I have lived half of my life (according to average statistics) and am now looking forward to newer and better things for the next 39 years (or whatever is allotted to me).

Only one life,

'twill soon be past,

Only what's done

for love will last!

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