Anthony shares his heart.
Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. ~~ Psalm 90:10
Oh, gosh. I’ve become one of them. Who? Well, let me start here…
“Mammaw,” as we called our grandmother, “Are you old?” I was an inquisitive five year old.
“Of course, I am,” she’d bite back. Mammaw had a rough edge to her, but we all accepted that and loved her dearly anyway.
“Are you going to die?” I asked.
“Hon, we ALL die! Why do you ask such silly questions?”
I didn’t answer her back. I just stared out her kitchen window and pondered on the cold fact that she would likely die before me. I wondered how old I’d be when that happened. Before I could let that sink in, she interrupted my contemplation.
“Anthony, you had better live life to the fullest, because it goes by so fast.” Yeah, well that will never happen. At least not for another 50 years or so.
Oh, my gosh! Here I am! Fifty years later. And she’s right. Life races by at warp speed.
Now I’m starting to make sounds like my father when he used to clear his throat. I’m telling my kids that the music they like isn’t music at all. And perhaps the greatest sacrilege of all, my kids make fun of The Wizard of Oz, saying, “It looks so FAKE!”
No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. ~~ Ecclesiastes 1:10
As a hospice chaplain, I have the high privilege of nestling within intimate family circles during an emotionally charged stage of life—death. On average I look at a dead body once or twice a week. Each glance never fails to remind me about what Mammaw told me that day. It’s the exact same thing that Jesus’ brother, James, stated in his epistle:
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. ~~ James 4:14
A mist. Another translation calls it a vapor. Do you know what a vapor is? Breathe out and make a whispered “ha” sound. That’s your life.
I once preached a message on a mission trip in Mozambique that I prayed would get through to the indigenous people there. Mozambique has a lot of sand. In fact, it was under my feet in the make-shift church where I was preaching that day. So I’m sure they didn’t mind what I was about to do.
I held up one grain of sand and made a point to go to each person sitting in the ground in that place. I told them, “This is your life.” Then I reached down and tossed a bucket full of sand on the ground in the middle aisle. “This is your life after life.”
Actually, I didn’t come close to describing the vast gap between here and eternity. One mathematician figured that the number of grains of sand on earth is some number with 27 zeroes after it! But even that’s not enough.
So what’s my point?
Mammaw was right. Life goes by so fast. And that’s all the more reason why we need to throw it away on earth.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. ~~ Matthew 10:39
I kind of told this to a friend of mine—I’ll call him Jeff—who treated me to lunch to find out why I adopted so many children.
Jeff was fidgety across the table. He twisted the paper wrapper of his straw until it was about to break. Jeff was trying to talk to me about something. But I already knew. I’ve seen it in so many men. And women.
I used to get very fidgety and nervous when deliberating about a major decision that God had already guided me on. I would talk and talk about it to my spiritual mother, telling her how uncomfortable I was with making that decision. When I finally got around to asking her if she thought it was God talking to me, she’d smile and say, “It looks like you already know the answer to that.”
In this fleeting life, God wants our blanks. There is always something that is keeping us from throwing our lives away “for his sake.” What is your blank?
I WILL DO THAT, LORD, BUT MY FLESH WANTS TO INDULGE IN ___(BLANK)___.
Do you have any of these blanks?
2. My addiction.
3. The chase for money.
4. The chase for success.
5. The chase for fame.
6. Self-preservation of my own life, darn it!
I am so thrilled that Jeff got it and is now moving forward to adopt for the first time. It wasn’t me. God was already telling him that!
Like Jeff, I was so fearful of giving up my life. Fear was my blank. And self-preservation.
Darn it, I WANT ALL KIDS OUT OF THE HOUSE BY THE TIME I RETIRE! Well, THAT’S not going to happen. Chances are, we will have a house full of children—and with special needs, at that—when I’m ready for the nursing home. One friend joked that I will be one person looking forward to going to a home! But seriously, not at all.
I am living proof of the losing it/gaining it principle that Jesus taught. My life IS a vapor. Some day, if the Lord tarries, my children will be called old fogies by THEIR children. (And I can’t wait. But I digress.) And because this life is so fleeting, don’t you think it makes it easier to decide to throw it away?
I keep hearing young people say, “I want to go to heaven, but not too soon. I want to know what it’s like to get married and have children.”
A part of me understands that. But the greater part of me cries out, “If only we all knew what lies beyond the grave!”
Heaven is better than marriage.
Heaven is better than having children.
And yes, heaven is better than sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll!
My mind is so closed sometimes. I think I’m a butterfly that spreads my wings and flies, but actually I’m a Siamese Fighting Fish that lives its entire life in a pool of water with an eight-inch diameter.
Father knows best. When He encourages us to lose our short, short life in order to save it, He knows what He’s talking about! And we don’t have to be a hospice patient to realize it.
My Mammaw is with the Lord now. But some day she will grab me by the cheeks and say, “Anthony, you have lived life to the fullest.”
And maybe she will have lost that rough edge about her.