The Two Most Important Days in Your Life. And Why Mark Twain Was Wrong
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain
I’d like to write a series of Hallmark cards called “Tough Truths.” They wouldn’t sell, of course, because in a culture addicted to emotionalism, tough truths don’t rake in the cash. But, hey, I’d have a ball writing them. For a birthday card in this series, I’d have one reflect the quote above from Mark Twain, but with a tough truth twist. On the outside we’d print these words, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…” then you’d open it to read these words, “and the day you find out you were conceived and born in sin and are in need of being born again.” I know, not really the sentiment you like to hear before blowing out the candles and shoving cake in your mouth. But at least it’s true.
And at least it actually gets us closer to answering the questions that Mark Twain really posed at the end of this famous quote: Why were you born? Why are you here? What is your purpose in life?
If you Google this quote, it’ll direct to site after site that uses Twain’s words as a springboard for showing you how to find your place in this world, achieve your dreams, or fulfill your life’s quest. All these blogs and online article have one thing in common; they all say that you were born to be a doer, an accomplisher. You’ll find out why you were born when you discover what you are meant to do.
The problem with all this advice is that it never questions its fundamental assumption: that your primary purpose in life is doing something. Actually, it’s not. Your primary purpose in life is not doing something, achieving a goal, fulfilling a dream, or even making the world a better place.
Your primary purpose in life is having something done to you. God created you in order that He might have someone to give to, to bless, to love, to nurture, to save, to give Himself to. That’s why you’re here.
And that gets me back to my Hallmark birthday card. That tough truth printed on the inside, that “you were conceived and born in sin and are in need of being born again,” is yet another reminder that your primary purpose in life is having something done to you. Whether you’re one day old or a hundred years old, your birthday, as wonderful as it is, is incomplete. God wants to give you a re-birthday. It’s the day He puts you back into the womb, a very watery womb, and pulls you out again. There’s no amniotic fluid in this womb, but it is permeated with the liquid of the divine word. You go in dirty, you come out clean. You go in dead, you come out alive. You go into this baptismal womb full of sin and come out full of Jesus. On the day of your baptism, the Father who gave you life in your mother’s womb, gives you new and everlasting life in the church’s womb.
On that re-birthday, our Father teaches you that the world is wrong about your purpose in life. Yes, you will go on to grow up and be, perhaps, a husband and father and electrician and member of the board of elders and local Rotary club. You may be and do lots of good things, fulfill several vocations, and maybe even check off several items on your bucket list. But, even as you do these things, they are not the fundamental reason for your existence.
God created you in order that He might be your Father in Jesus Christ. He made you to be His own. He formed you to be a receptacle for His blessings.
So, I’m sorry, Mark Twain, but you’re wrong. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born again through water and the word, and the day you find out that you are here to receive the divine gifts that flow from the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!