We are on a "sojourn" - a temporary stay - on this earth. At least that is what our 'beliefs' or our theology tells us. If this is true, then life is a journey with a beginning (birth), a midway point (physical death) and, if you are a Christ-follower, an eternal destiny. Most people focus on the time between birth and physical death, and rightly so. Our time on this earth as persons is precious, since it dictates how it all will culminate in eternity. Will we fulfill the intention of our Creator during this sojourn, or will we disregard it? Either way, our lives are journeys; measured in time. What we do on this sojourn is up to us.
what you make of it.
Although early in life - as children, teens and young adults - we are shaped by forces that are beyond our control (parents, sickness, crime, government), we eventually reach a point where we control our own lives. We choose where and how we live. We get to decide by what ethic we will live and what our goals will be. There comes a point where we can blame no one but ourselves for our life's predicaments. Life is what you make of it. Many of my students are graduating from college and moving out of the family home. They are renting apartments, getting married and finding jobs. But your life is more than financial and relational independence. The question now is, "What will you do with this life that God has given you?"
The older I get, the shorter the days, weeks and years become. I was in such a hurry to arrive at certain markers (i.e. graduations, marriage, driving!) that I set a tempo in my life that is unrelenting. Now I realize that this earthly segment of our lives is special; it must be lived, inhabited and we must be present in it every moment - enjoying every morsel - for tomorrow is coming.
1996. I visited my grandma Ida in the nursing home outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She vaguely remembered me. She was the first female pharmacist in the state of Oklahoma. She had lived long and seen much in her life. By this time, she had been a widow for 30 years. As we sat together, she asked me a question that still reverberates in my mind: "Jay, why has God not taken me? I have no one left..." Life can be too long. We are created for community and when we no longer have that capacity, it's time...
to be enjoyed.
We are growing fruits and vegetables in our backyard. Melissa is growing vegetables and I am focusing on the fruits - grapes and berries. Melissa is sensible and I am, well, indulgent. She works hard weeding, trimming, watering, fertilizing and nurturing. At the end of that hard work lies squash, tomatoes, okra, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupe, beans, peas, strawberries, blackberries and table grapes. We will enjoy the blessing of the garden.
But life is more than food and work. It's people: relationships, laughter and love. It's about building friendships where laughter is the fruit of our labor. Where solace is found during the painful moments and joy is found in the rest. Lives - our persons - are to be shared with others and to be enjoyed in the making of memory...
I wish this were not true, but things are not right in our world. There is suffering, pain and death. The difficult moments in life are found in the navigation of the shoals in our world. Things don't always go our way. We love and our love is refused. We give and our gifts are spurned. We become ill and our life expectancy is shortened. We have accidents. We lose people we love and that loss is keenly and painfully experienced. To live life, to savor every moment means that there will be times when we taste the bitterness of disappointment, loss and death. But in those moments, we are shown more clearly than ever, the privilege of living.
Although our pain stands out, it is the joy upon which we must focus. We were created to live in joy, not in pain - though pain is inevitable. Joy isn't exclusively the emotion that drives us to the mountain top of happiness. More often than not, joy is smelling a whiff of honeysuckle; or reveling in the laughter of a baby; or being able to hold the hand of someone you love. Joy is walking through the backyard with no shoes on... Joy is being able to sing, off-key, your favorite worship song... Joy results from living before God a life that is pleasing to Him...
To live in awe and wonder of who God is and what God has done for us. Life is beautiful in that we are pierced through by His grandeur - His grace and glory. Our lives our beautiful when we become like "shining foil shook" - reflections of the divine grace and glory.
to be lived...in love.
We cannot avoid love in living. To avoid love in living, is to die prematurely. There are many people who live life with infirmities that most others do not possess; yet they live richer lives than we. Why is this? They understand that life is not encapsulated in physical, emotional or economic success. Every human being, no matter infirm or limited they might be has one universal capacity: they are able to love. The woman in the wheelchair, the child who is bound by multiple sclerosis as well as the man who has cancer often times understand love and share it more than the professional who has health and economic means. Many of us will say that we love, but do we? Love is without condition. Love does not expect. Love does not harbor bitterness. And in the end, the one thing that will matter is did we live our lives as love.