Wednesday, August 3, 2011

But A Vapor

In January of 2008 I dreamt of death--my own. What a rumbling within my heart ensued in the days after that night! To stare into the reality that our days are not without end is unnerving, shocking even. I think of the movie "Bucket List" and songs with lyrics like, "live like you were dying." Their message like strokes of bold red on a white wall scream out the truth of our mortality. Yesterday I had my annual physical. The cholesterol came back good, the blood counts were fine, my foot still involuntarily jolts when my knee is tapped by the rubber mallet thingymajig. My sugar was a touch high, but when the lady asked me if I had a healthy diet, I failed to mention the Chic-Fil-A vanilla milkshake that served as my lunch on the way down. Instead I mentioned my organic garden; she seemed happy. Those organic carrots really raise blood sugar levels, I hear! I walked out of the Dr.'s with an A+ for health and the promise of many more good reports. But what if it had been different? What if, when she listened to my heart she heard a flutter or pause that shouldn't have been? What if when she checked for lumps she had come across one so stationary that she knew it could mean only one thing? What if she looked me square in the eyes and said in a gentle tone, "It isn't good, Sarah." What then? Would anything change? Tomorrow, I will spend time with someone who is in fact dying--shedding that mortal shell that carries our soul for a parenthesis on earth amidst eternity's ceaseless timeline. And I wonder, when she got the news, did anything change? I keep thinking of this lady's life over the years. I remember her since I was about 12. Just shy of 25 years I've watched her be the same--watched her love, watched her pray, watched her encourage, watched her stand beside her husband, watched her touch the lives of those around her, watched her perpetually worship. I'll most remember her as a lady among ladies, and one who loved her God. How would I be remembered? Really? Part of me wants to say, "Wait, I'm still working on that. Don't remember me yet. I need to tweak a few things first." My boys are young, my bill of health is good, my days are filled with schooling, gardening, cooking, neighboring, friending, daughtering, sistering, organizing, planning, laundry ( I should list that twice) dog training, bill paying. Filled. I feel, most of the time, like the carry-on I packed for a trip to Maine a couple years ago that was supposed to hold everything I needed for an entire long weekend. Or like a laundry basket that's been filled with water--it leaks everywhere. There's so much in my little sliver of life that I can barely keep all the ends tied let alone t's crossed and i's dotted. It's a tender time, I think, because my life won't be swollen and full and bulging forever. I'm going to wake up one day to silence in my home instead of the quiet, steady breathing of my early riser patiently waiting for me to greet the sun with him. And his tackling, tumbling brother won't knock me over with surprise jumps onto my back because he'll be grown. The Psalmist must have thought about these things too because he said, "So teach us to number our days, so that we might live wisely." (Psalm 90:12) And I'm left wondering, "If I'm to live like I'm dying--which, in truth I am--than what things should be on my daily bucket list?" There are like two million things and people all lined up, some not so patiently, waiting to make the cut. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22) Love God. Love people. Seems so simple. Maybe it is. Maybe every single action I take needs to go through this one filter, "Will I be loving God and loving people as I love myself if I do this thing?" And if I followed that mantra, then maybe my legacy would be tweaked enough. Maybe I would be remembered like this. She loved. She loved. That would be something. So, I know tomorrow isn't promised to me. I'm married to a firefighter. I face the reality of danger every third day when he leaves for his shift and I wonder, Will he come home? But what am I doing with the moments that are given me? What am I doing with the sweet precious mornings when that little rooster patters into my room wide awake and ready to discuss the NFL strike and the other one dives into my bed like it's a swimming pool? What am I doing with the few minutes between when the boys have gone to bed and Jeff is still up before he goes on shift? What am I doing with the people God puts in my life--the junior counselors at camp, the campers, the neighbors, the sisters, the friends, the parents? It is indeed a tender time, a time not to be taken for granted, not to be wasted. It is the allotted time. The bucket list time. Not the bucket list of adventures I want to take, but of seizing the moments that are my present reality and squeezing every ounce of life out of them that I possibly can. Ephesians 5:15 says we are to live carefully "redeeming the time" we are given. That word redeem carries with it the idea of rescuing something from being lost. My youngest son can't keep up with his shoes. He has about five thousand pairs, and none of them are where they are supposed to be at the proper time. When Sunday comes his brown dress shoes are surely down by the creek, and his camouflage boots are the only two matching shoes to be found. Sometimes I pick up his shoes, put them in a pile on top of the dryer, and just wait to see how long it takes him to notice they are all missing. He never has noticed. Not once. What if our minutes and hours were like that? God found them squandered and scattered haphazardly here and there, and He picked them up and placed them altogether for us to see collectively just how many precious moments we lost? I can't imagine what it would be like to really see all of that time together in one lump sum. It's my heart's desire to rescue the time God has given me. James 4:14 says, " are but a vapor, here for a little while and then vanishing." Like an early morning mist that whispers across a sleeping lake, our souls drift through these mortal days, only to return to the arms of eternity. May their journey leave behind the fragrance of God. Pray with me: Lord, I'm humbled that you've given me time. More of it than many. Help me daily to use every single fiber of it for love. Loving others, loving you, loving who you've made me to be. May I be known for love. Amen. Read with me: Ephesians 5:15,16


Julie Todd said...

Stunning, dear Sarah, absolutely stunning. I loved this. I love you!


Sarah said...

thank you, Julie. Love you too.

Anne Arnold Pierce said...

Vapor is a perfect image for our life in time. Beautiful Sarah.
Ant Awn

Joan Griswold said...

Sarah You are such an inspiration. What a "Wonderful" message you give me to inspire me today and everyday I have the honor to be your friend and neighbor.