“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
I confess that my meditations have been a touch…well…melancholic this week. As a general rule, I sit pretty solidly in the joy of the Lord, but you never know when something triggers, dumping you unceremoniously into the mire of your own unresolved issues. No one enjoys a visit to the fetid gloom of their dark emotions, but it’s oh, so necessary. Deny them, and you’re just creating a ticking time bomb. The deeps within are sublimely profound; probably the most challenging and demanding expedition we ever embark upon, so grit your teeth and brace for Sheol.
What set it all off (of course), was a family event. The funeral of an aunt, in fact. A very sweet, kind aunt. Once again, Mom and I were present. The atmosphere was set with Abba (the rock group) playing a touch loudly in the background for prelude. You can guess the tenor of the whole affair. Family members gave heartfelt eulogies, and the funeral itself was crammed sweetly with old photos and family reminisces, but the larger, significant themes of life, death and the Almighty’s rightful place in it all were nowhere in evidence. However, not even this blatantly secular tone was the source of my angst. I was provoked by the unexpectedly large family contingent present. The entire front section of the Church was reserved for what had to be 30+ people. Suddenly seeing the prolific numbers of this clan forcibly slammed me with the passage of time and what had been done (or not done), with it. While this family lived their lives working, partying, holidaying, marrying (or not marrying), birthing, and just plain carrying on with gay, impious abandon, they thrived; multiplying like rabbits. Want life? Seize it! God is dead. Family motto? Just do anything you damn well please.
Now pan the camera over to Mom and I. Time and time again, it’s just we two; no family, no children, no grandchildren surrounding us. Having honored a life of faith, diligently listening for God’s voice and trying to do right against the backdrop of other’s scorn and belittlement, here we sit, with nothing to show for it. Not exactly poster girls for testimony to the good blessing of God. It’s all a little Naomi and Ruth in Moab. I was grieved that day for the Lord, for myself, but more precisely, for Mom. There are certain people placed on the planet to be superb grandparents…and Mom is one of them. Unfortunately (actually, fortune had nothing to do with it), the honor she so richly deserves has been disallowed her. Where is her joy, her crown? That day, I felt the precious, weighted cost of it all. The sheer injustice was so palpable I wanted to burst into tears. With a start, I realized I was sitting deep in the bowels of Psalm 73.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches.
Surely, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Psalm 73:2-3, 12-13, 16-17, 21
From the Lord’s perspective as Ancient of Days, our lives, precious though they may be to Him, are as swift as a vapor, the mist or dew on a summer morning. A lifetime passes with staggering swiftness. If you’ve ever been present when someone drew their last breath, a coarse rattle in their throat, you’ll know it. Despite all the huffing and puffing, we’re all just a whisper away from eternity. What we do with every breath we take has lasting implications. There’s only a limited number of them, so this is important.
What is the atmosphere you breathe? How are you spending that wind of inspiration? Are we blowing hot air, boasting on ourselves, our accomplishments, our grandiose dreams? Are we panting for desired things, wasting the beauty of the unfolding day? Are we sniffing contemptuously at our portion or snorting in derision at the struggles of others? Are we blasting our unbridled emotions at nearest and dearest, foaming and fuming in our resentments and offence? We started our lives on the kiss of God (Gen 2:7), but there’s a lot of choices to be made as we gulp in life. For a moment, I lost track of mine in the exhalation of bitterness. I let raw anima rule my thinking.
When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me— Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Psalm 73:21
Stepping back, I realize the decisions I made, the path I took, the things I said 'no' to, was under prayerful consideration that cannot be rregretted, even if it doesn’t see me with children swarming at my feet. Any serious God-chaser is breathing in and out the life of the Kingdom, wherever it takes them. The songs of praise that rise from their lips as well as the worship of obedience are in no way wasted. I don’t know how El Shaddai is going to level the playing field and fulfill His promises for this family, but I know He will, and it is going to be stupendous. There are wonders waiting to take the breath away, and return it again in a shout of joy.