Life is short

[First Friday guest post from Paul Merrill]

My mom died in June. She was a month shy of 80. Her life was long and full, by most standards.

Psalm 39:4 says:

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered -
how fleeting my life is.

She had a nearly full refrigerator. Her car insurance was paid for almost a year in advance. She was not planning to die. (Few of us do.) But all of her accounts were settled, in the relational sense. She had no regrets about those she needed to forgive.

How are you facing the rest of your days?

You have heard the concept of carpe diem – seize the day. We should live our life like each day may be our very last. That shouldn’t mean indulging in a hedonistic rampage of filling ourselves with all the pleasures we can grab. Rather it should mean loving those we know to the best of our abilities. And asking God to give us wisdom to know how to love those in our lives better – beyond our abilities.

It seems like almost every job provides us with a difficult person to relate to. Even if you work alone, you probably deal with vendors or clients. One co-worker stretches you in ways they don’t even know about.

Love them.

Pick up the phone. Call that old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Love them.

There may be someone in your family you just can’t relax around. Speak to them. Clear the air.

Love them.

That homeless guy who’s parked on that same corner every morning on your way to work?

Love him.

That intimidating superior at work you just can’t relate to? Think of a way to humbly bridge the gap.

Love her.

You won’t regret it.

————

Paul is with his family in Texas this weekend for his mother’s memorial service. Please pray with them.

now

It is possible to read too much positive thinking material. It is possible, I think, to be too optimistic, to be too ‘everything will work out great’, to be too ‘seize the moment.’

So I won’t be.

On the other hand, when the servant got the five talents, he immediately put his money to work and generated five more.

Immediately. That word hit me last week, and now I’m hitting you.

Sorry, a little context might help.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told a story about three servants who were given outrageous amounts of money by their master as he prepared to leave on a trip. By outrageous, I mean that the one who got the least would have had to work for 16 years to earn that much, and the one who got the most? A century.

Two of the servants doubled their money. One of the servants buried his. The first servant, the one who doubled his 100 years money, started right away. He was given the money and started to use it.

Here’s where I start to sound all positive, but hear me out.

Every moment of your life up to the moment you are reading this? Over. The next ten minutes? A gift, a resource, a collection of breaths given by God and available to double in their value.

Maybe double by writing an email to encourage someone.

Maybe double by putting down the keyboard and looking someone in the eyes and telling them that they are worth looking in the eyes.

Maybe double by talking with God about what to do next, asking for wisdom as we are invited to do.

Maybe double by listening to God.

Maybe double by not finishing reading this.

Maybe double by saying no one more time.

I don’t know. God does. Ask Him.

more urgent

I heard this today:

“Forming people in Christ as a slow work, so it can’t be hurried;
it is an urgent work, so it can’t be delayed.”

Eugene Peterson said it. He’s the pastor and teacher who “wrote” The Message. It’s a paraphrase, taking the Bible and telling it in contemporary language and images. I find it helpful because it gives a different flavor to the text.

Peterson understands something about slow and urgent work. That’s what paraphrasing the whole Bible takes. Some of us struggle with just reading it all. He read it. He reread it. He looked at multiple translations. He looked at Greek and Hebrew texts. He drafted and revised and prayed and listened and wrote and finished.

He had to start. He couldn’t rush.

Between Matthew 2:23 and 3:1 there is nothing. This is 25 years of Jesus’ life and we know nothing. Years of being a teenager. Years of carpentry. Years of learning and teaching, questioning and answering.

We would love to know what happened, but Matthew gives us nothing.

Growth takes time. It happens outside the spotlight. It is measured in years and decades. We want feedback all the time. We want to know that we are getting close. We want to know that we are making progress. We want all the details.

When we don’t see progress, we think that that maybe this, whatever the learning and living task is,  doesn’t matter after all. We don’t start or we give up.

Following Jesus is a commitment of a life and a commitment to a life. Some of that life will be in the spotlight, with cool miracles. Some will be in the spotlight with opportunities for martyrdom. Most of it, however, years and decades, may be in slow quiet shaping.

But don’t think it isn’t urgent.