The temperatures this morning confirmed that the calendar is correct. It is January. But by mid-morning, the sunshine, Carolina blue skies and mid-fifties temperature gave way to rising expectations. The season of newness of life is not far away and we anticipate its arrival.
After a lazy morning that included a sumptuous breakfast with friends in ball caps and yesterday’s clothes, we took advantage of the “spring-like” weather; ran a few errands and explored a few of our favorite shops. As we meandered our way back to the sleepy bedroom town where we live, we shuffled through a few of our favorite Brooklyn Tabernacle tunes on the iPod. As we topped the hill toward a stop sign, we were feeling good and adding our harmonies to “I Was Made to Live for You.”
“I was created for Your glory
All of my days were made for You
Lord You have formed me and
You know me
You know me
Without You Lord what can I do
I was made to live for You…”
The car eased to a rest at the stop sign. (singing: “I was made to live for you”)
At that moment we noticed, from our left, two police cars with flashing headlights followed by a sea of cars with high beams engaged traveling toward us. (music still playing…”Lord, I give my life as a sacrifice for You. I give everything as an offering to You. I was made to live for you…”)
Vehicles in every direction had now stopped to offer their respect as the hearse and family cars slowly traveled past us. In all honesty, my first reaction was one of, “O no—this is inconvenient—and I need to get home.” Then it happened. In the midst of this amazing and gorgeous life-filled morning, we were forced to stop and consider death.
The Psalmist encourages us to number our days. (Psalm 90:12) I am confident that the Psalmist does not make this exhortation out of some sense of morbidity or gloom. Rather, I believe, the Psalmist wants us to know that EVERYTHING matters.
Yes, every breath, every laugh, every tear,
every conversation, every birthday, every worship service,
every cup of coffee, every heartache, every breakup,
every reconciliation, every song, every note, every reunion— EVERYTHING MATTERS!
Just two verses before the exhortation to “number our days,” the Psalmist estimates that humans have “seventy some odds years of days.” (Psalm 90:10) The music and lyrics from the iPod continued to fill the space. (singing: “I was made to live for you. No matter where I go You see me. Jesus You’re never far away. Help me to follow where You lead me. I open my heart to You today.”)
For a few seconds of my life, I am caused to pause and wonder, exactly for what are we created?
As a I write this, hospice has been called in to care for a relative that, by doctors’ estimation, has less than a week to live. I also have three friends who, because of spouses and partners with serious health issues, have had their worlds turned upside down, disjointed and thrown into chaos. Their very full, normal and perfunctory lives have been exchanged for existences dictated by blood test results, medicine, chemo treatments, doctor appointments, hospital stays, and all of the emotional and physical baggage and side effects that accompanies such. Truth be known, these caregivers are exhausted; and if they were to be honest, they are frustrated. But in an era of easy exits, inconsistency and very little stability, these caregivers are faithful. Yes, faithful!
I’ve watched these partners change their schedules, inconvenience their dreams and pour themselves out for another human being. Culture does not recognize faithfulness. There is no glory in it. There is no award to be received, no acceptance speech to be given and no accolades to satisfy our clamoring egos. These faithful caregivers will not make the cover of any magazine; they won’t be promoted at work; there will be no increase in pay. If anything, there will be financial challenges and insurance battles to test their fortitude and compound already frustrating situations.
But there is something innately attractive and compelling about faithfulness.
I watch these faithful friends and I am forced to consider, for what were we created?
Is it possible that we are, in fact, created to above all else, pour ourselves out for the sake of other human beings? After all, isn’t that example given by the rabbi we claim to follow? I call myself a “Christ-follower.” But honestly, most days, I find myself wanting Christ to follow me and demand that others serve me.
Today, I got stopped by a funeral procession today. In those few brief, divinely-ordained moments, God reminded me that I was not created to live for myself. In fact, I am made to live for God.
When I was 5 years old, my Mom and Dad would stand me up on a chair between them at the pulpit on Wednesday nights in the little white concrete block church in rural Mount Pleasant North Carolina and we would sing, “For I was born to serve the Lord.”
“My hands were made
to help my neighbor,
my eyes were made
to read God’s word.
My feet were made
to walk in His footsteps,
my body is the temple of the Lord.”
I am convinced that the purpose for which we are created is wrapped up in serving others, being inconvenienced and pouring out of ourselves into the lives of others. Think about it. If this is our highest and greatest purpose, it certainly relieves the pressure and stress of trying to maintain our existence in a culture hell-bent on being first, getting more, looking younger, and out-doing the next person.
Interesting too that this weekend, we remember the life and legacy of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. According to him, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
Thank God for funeral processions. Funeral processions remind us to “number our days.” Numbering our days reminds us to refocus our attention on our purpose.