What is your current, ongoing reminder that life here is temporal?
I’ll tell you one of mine. The ringleader of that gregarious pack of thankful friends is battling brain cancer. Overlooking the severity of his illness would be easier without a six-inch scar on one side of his shaved head. He also happens to be hilarious enough to play the cancer card to get his way: “Hey, Beth, can you cut me a bigger piece of that cake? You know I have cancer.”
At times we’ve talked about his illness with unembarrassed sadness, but we kept it short that recent day. Too much glad chaos was occurring around us. We sat in rocking chairs on the front porch, surrounded by our adult children and watching a flurry of their little ones play tag and chase balls.
As I looked from face to familiar face, my thoughts drew loops around the past and present. A small encyclopedia of life experience tucked in my heart told me that some of those young couples had troubles and doubts. I knew most of their stories, and few escaped the scarring licks of a blazing fire growing up. My daughters didn’t escape them, and in no small part, due to their parents. But this wasn’t a time for guilt or blame. It was a time for beholding. There before me were the young and the old, the living and the dying, the surviving and the thriving. What a slice of life, I thought, and I whispered under my breath, Such is common to man.
But I was wrong. It hit me later that such is common to redeemed man. Had we been a large group of unbelievers still bound by legitimate friendship, yes, we would have comprised a fair composite of human life, but our condition in its midst would have been worlds apart.
Faith is a game changer. Know that to your bones.
That night alone in my house, a spring of tears erupted and rushed over me like a levee had broken. A sense of sadness over my friend’s illness collided with inexpressible elation and gratitude. Grief and grace rose up within me like two giant wrestlers stopping long enough to shake hands. Pain and beauty tangled in a big knot called hope.
I’m not talking about the theoretical kind of hope. I’m talking about the kind that gets you to your next anniversary when it would be easier to give up now. The kind that gets you through your long season of loneliness so you don’t jump into a disastrous marriage on lame legs. The kind that counts on a future whether or not the treatment takes. The kind that gets you through a move when you really want to stay. The kind that grants you something gained after a terrible loss. The kind that … well, you fill in the blank.
We are not just like everybody else breathing the world’s toxic air. Our flight has been hijacked by hope.