I’m turning 35 this summer. Whether that seems old or young to you probably depends on how much higher or lower your own number is. What I know for sure is that, while there is potentially still a long journey ahead of me, I have also put some long years behind me. I’ve always tried to live intentionally, beginning with the end in mind, you might say. However, lately everything in my life seems to be contriving to bring me repeated consciousness of the fact that living is a terminal condition.
I attended another funeral this morning. A beloved friend from church who was blessed to enjoy a long and fruitful life has gone on to Glory. Another dear friend, not so advanced in years, had emergency surgery to remove her appendix the day after Mother’s Day; thankfully they caught it in time. My younger daughter is graduating from Kindergarten; it seems much too soon. Grandpa is back in the hospital again. A family in our community had two of their three kids die when their minivan was T-boned on a quiet side street we commonly drive down. My older daughter started needing deodorant. All are subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that time moves in only one direction and, sooner or later, that onward march is going to lead all of us to the same outcome.
I’m seeing everything different these last few weeks. Every time I get into a car, I consider the possibility of an accident. When I order French fries, I hear my arteries begging me to stop. I look in the mirror and see the smile lines and sun spots starting, and know that kid at the grocery store isn’t going to keep asking for my I.D. forever.
Some ministers will suggest that from the day we put our faith in Christ, our earthly life is just a hindrance, holding us back from the Glory that awaits us. When I was younger, that was one of my biggest fears; that life quit meaning anything, because accepting Jesus meant longing for the end. Life was just this burdened in-between of trying to spread the Gospel and secure eternity for others.
The Gospel is much fuller to me now than it used to be. While I hope for the eternal Glory my friends are now experiencing, I’m trying really hard to experience Glory each day. Life has these incredible seasons we get to pass through, each a unique gift from God who gives us life. From the beautiful naiveté of childhood, through the discovery of youth, the comfort of finding our identity and vocations, and on into the uncharted future that I hope will bring adventure, accomplishment, and grandkids. God didn’t plan just for the end, God planned for each and every day, each moment, of this Glorious life I get to live.
But even as I dream of this amazing future, I feel burdened right now by the reality that, as Mat Kearney’s song Closer to Love puts it, “we’re all just a phone call from our knees.” Anything can happen at any time to cut short the dreams I hope for, and I feel like, right now, life is just starting to get good. Really good. Good-byes are hard, but I don’t want to live in either denial or in fear of them; they’re part of life, too. Lately, though, I've been feeling the pinch of their inevitability.
"Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth;the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Psalm 39:4-5