I am thankful every day that I arise, for the rich tapestry woven around my life as a believer; rich from the standpoint of intimacy within a broad web of friends, afforded by a deep calling to serve. This call of mine however, seems faithfully full of reminders of just how vulnerable and fleeting life is.
Such was the case this week when I received a call that a friend had suddenly taken ill, and that emergency medical personnel were in transport. I would need to leave my meeting immediately due to responsibilities accepted years ago for his care and that of his elderly parent.
As I arrived, there on the floor lay my friend, clothing coarsely cut away as professional caregivers administered every resuscitation technology available, yet the room was already clouded with an awareness that this life had likely passed. Ultimately the corpse was covered over by a sheet and our attention shifted to completion of the necessary documents to justify a declaration of death and the removal of the remains. A real and raw moment, included here not to be crass, but to provide stark context for my entry this morning. I know my late friend, a Divinity school graduate, would approve.
That one phone call changed my entire week and yet as the moments unfolded it was as if God had already positioned me for this needed focus. My schedule had begun changing earlier that day, placing me in a meeting that I could afford to leave at a moment’s notice, even clearing the next morning so that I would be undistracted as I shared the unfortunate news of this friend’s passing, an only child, with his widowed 93 year old father. His eye is on the sparrow.
This morning as I ponder just how I will honor my friend at a private graveside service, I am struck again by the brevity of life, but also the massive opportunities that we all have during this “brief candle” that we burn.
I sit here quietly with my morning coffee, glancing occasionally at the fading rose bud cut earlier in the week. Ironically, my devotional reading has me moving through one of those less than inspirational listings of leaders (II Kings), some reduced to a couple sentences, and even those few lines reflecting a reckless disregard for God and His people; lending their days to great loss of life, to include their own.
I find myself caught in a paradox of emotion, grateful for 64 years, soon 40 (January 3,1973) of them spent under the mantle of His favor, yet repentant of the moments when full devotion would have opened me to much richer wisdom and higher impact on my community. However, it is a new day and I am still alive, unlike my friend, whose impact on this earth has been halted by death and disease.
Shall I simply sit idle on this Saturday, resting on the laurels of another workweek completed, or shall I arise with a renewed passion to serve, honoring my fallen friend, but at the same time offering myself anew to both God and man, as if today were my last moment on Earth?
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
George Bernard Shaw