Friday, November 7, 2008
Pennies on a Rug; Reflections on Living and Dying
I've given considerable thought about dying in recent months as I pray for a friend who is terminally ill. This past summer, my daughter Amy lost a young friend in a hiking accident that left us all stunned and bewildered. And though I realize it is hard to die, it is also really hard to LIVE in light of the inevitable end of life as we know it. And I’m painfully aware of the fact that how we die is often a reflection of the life we have lived.
I often find it hard to focus on the life to come. Amy and I were recently contemplating the brevity of this life and I told her, "We don't really live like we believe in heaven. We're like a child sitting on a rug playing with our piggy bank and our few grimy pennies. What difference does it make if we have 9 pennies or 29 or 79? It is a pittance. Our heavenly Father stands holding out handfuls of precious jewels and pure gold--eternal riches--yet we obsess over the sticky pennies in our hands because it's all we know. To lose those pennies is an unthinkable tragedy to us because we don't really believe that there is so much more.”
My pennies might look a little different than yours. I believe that each of us has a Theme Trial in life. For some, it is finances—real pennies on a larger scale. For others, it might be health or broken relationships. Yet the common denominator is every one of these things is temporal. Because anything that we can lose--a business, our health, the life of a loved one--is an insecure anchor, pennies on a rug. We need to learn to set our eyes on the riches that await us in order to have any purpose or joy in this present life.
Every day I struggle with what I have lost of my vision--choosing to ignore what is literally in front of me 24/7. Every day I am tempted to worry about losing more. Nerve damage has occurred in my retinas that will not be restored in this lifetime and I mourn what is lost. This is as good as it gets for me, visually, this side of heaven. The realization of this fact is a continual mental battle. If I don't remind myself that something better is ahead, it makes successful living today impossible.
One day, I was sitting in [yet another] surgeon's exam room having just shown her pictures of our new grandson. She said, "You have a beautiful family." And I replied, "I am very blessed. This stuff with my eyes is just sand in my shoes in comparison." This woman knows that I have been through. She has performed two of my last five eye surgeries and is well aware of my uncertain prognosis. But what I am trying to relay to her, and more to myself, is the importance of Perspective: I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve just in this life. How much more does God have waiting for me? More than I can dream. So every day, I do what I can do, then rest. I know that God cares more about me than I can possibly know. The protector of my life is never tired and never sleeps. He is paying attention to every detail that concerns me and nothing can touch me outside of His control. He continues to hold me in His hand and has me exactly where He wants me--having to depend on Him. It is a good place to be; living this life in abundance and looking forward to the day where every tear will be wiped from my eyes, I will see His face clearly, and know Him as He already knows me. Now that is good news!