I came across a prayer journal this morning…. dated August 5, 2007….. it was my Dad’s birthday. And perhaps because it’s the CHRISTmas season, I paused and lingered over it. Journals are somewhat like photo albums,….. only they give you a glimpse back in time at the state of your mind and heart, rather than your body and hair — I still want to one day put together an album of the “hair and times of Kathy Little”. But I digress. Back to my thoughts on life and death — August 5, 2007…..
(from my journal)
I think about my Daddy — today would’ve been his birthday. Does anybody anywhere know that or remember that? I’m even having trouble remembering how old he would’ve been. I’m thinking in the neighborhood of early 90’s. You’re born. You live. You die. And how quickly it no longer is even remembered and no one even cares. At the time Daddy died, I was so upset. I grieved so his loss from our lives. He was only 62. I did a scrapbook of his life. Who will ever look at it? It’s in the attic. Perhaps when Carl and I are gone, Jennifer and Matthew will go thru our stuff and find it. But what will they do with it? You want to keep stuff like that, but where do you keep it? What do you do with it? Will they put it in their attic ? And then, will our grandson Owen turn around and find it in 40 more years and he’ll wonder the same thing …. what do I do with this?
We’re born. We live. We die. Does any of it matter? Who remembers? I sound like Solomon in Lamentations! The “matter” lies in the living and whose life we touch and influence to make better. Our stuff won’t last. The history of who we were won’t last — who cares after we’re gone? But the lives we affected live on. And if they are affecting lives, they live on… and this continues on down thru the generations.
No one remembers my Dad (except for the few in our family), but he was a large influence on who I became. And I live on. I am known and I can influence. And while I’m headed to where he has been these 30+years…. into the realm of the eternal…. and I, too, will become “a scrapbook” for Jennifer and Matthew… (that everyone hates to pitch but what do you do with it) …. their lives, however, will continue to reap fruit and influence and affect. And their lives contain my investment — and Carl’s investment. And the cycle continues. Lord, could you tell my Daddy “Happy Birthday”? Could you tell him I still miss him and that he mattered. He mattered to me.
That was August 2007…..thoughts on life and death. Life is an interesting journey. One day you’re pondering life and death and leaving a scrapbook that nobody quite knows what to do with!! And the next (as in December 2019), you’re dancing with your dog and your youngest grandson! The ups and downs and in-betweens of life! There will be sorrow. There will be joy.
I was reading this morning from Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I read these verses, thinking about those who have gone before me…… those from Hebrews 11, the infamous Hall of Faith for we followers of Christ! But I also think about those who have gone before me here in the realm of my earth-time ….. people that have influenced me and helped mold me into the person I have become. Influence is a powerful thing. We do well to guard ours, keeping it ever sharp and focused and centered, knowing that we, too, are affecting those journeying along side of us. So how exactly DO we guard our witness and guard our influence? We get insight as we read Hebrews 12:1-2
- Lay sin aside
- Run with endurance
- Look to Jesus
- Realize “JOY, ENDURANCE, and DESPISE” can co-exist!
I could chat on considerably about the first three, and maybe I will some day, but today what has grabbed my attention is that last one….. “JOY, ENDURANCE, and DESPISE” can co-exist. I find that interesting and hopeful…. because life is assuredly a blend of all three. And Jesus found this to be true, as well, within His “earth-time”. So let’s look to Jesus (as the verse counsels us)…. look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith….
Jesus had much He had to ENDURE, as well as that which gave rise to DESPISE. He endured ridicule. He endured rejection. He endured pain and suffering. He endured loss. And actually His list could go on and on, all leading up to: He endured the cross, as He took the punishment and judgement for my sin, …. for the world’s sin. He knew what it was to have to ENDURE. And as we ponder the means by which He died for our sins….. could we not say “death is death” so why didn’t He just have a nice gentle “die in your sleep” kinda death. But no….. Jesus was called to endure the shame that came from being publicly tried, sentenced, and condemned. And then there was the literal stripping of his clothes and being hung on a cross. Jesus knew shame and scripture tells us He despised it. And yet scripture tells us that He endured it for the JOY that was set before Him! (……v.2 who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame) He endured for the JOY. What JOY was this? Probably there were many, but here’s a few that come to my mind:
- the JOY He had of being the Savior of His people. (from Hebrews 10:9-10 ….Behold, I (Jesus) have come to do Your will (that being God’s will). And by that will, we (believers) have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.)
- the JOY of perfect obedience as He was obedient, even unto death. (Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.)
- the JOY of returning to the glory He had with His Father (taken from John 17:5, as He prayed prior to His crucifixion: “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”)
- the JOY He has of now being our intercessor at the right hand of the Father! (from Romans 8:34 …..Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.)
I ponder all of this, thinking: is this possible for us? Is this even possible? Certainly we know “endure” — everybody everywhere is dealing with stuff, so we know ENDURE! And we know “despise”…. who amongst us has not DESPISED a situation or circumstance that we have found ourselves in. But can this ENDURE and DESPISE co-exist with JOY for us? I think it can. And actually the fact that it can is itself just another example of the JOY that Jesus saw set before Him, as He was enduring and despising! (that got wordy as I typed it…. but are ya tracking with me? Do you know what I mean?) He saw how His sacrifice was going to make a way for us…. a way for us to have JOY even amidst the brokenness of this life…. and THAT brought Him joy!
So let’s bullet-point how WE can have JOY, co-existing amidst “endure and despise”!! (I like bullet-points…. they help organize my thinking!)
- We can have JOY because Jesus paid the price for our salvation. He took the punishment and judgement for our sin. And in return He offers us His righteousness…. a righteousness that allows us to have fellowship and union with God. When Jesus was praying, prior to His going to the cross, He asked the Father in John 17:20-21 ….I do not ask for these only (meaning His disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me.
- We can have JOY in spite of life’s hard times because those “hard times” are not what define us. As a Follower of Christ, I am now defined by Him! I have been given a greater calling — a calling of being one with He and the Father, a calling of living out my belief in Him, that the world might know — that they might know that God sent His Son Jesus to rescue us! We celebrate CHRISTmas next Wednesday….. but for those of us who BELIEVE….. we celebrate CHRISTmas always! I love leaving manger scenes all over my house, all year long! The gift of Jesus IS JOY!
- We can have JOY because of our obedience! Being submissive and surrendered get a bad rap in our culture today. Instead, our world applauds individualism and strength and control. But how much JOY can we have in all that? Even if we have brief seasons…. they do not last. We none can maintain control of our lives. And when things do run amuck, can you be strong enough to hold it together? Ahhh, but the JOY and freedom that comes from our sweet surrender to a Sovereign God who has the power and authority over all that He Himself has spoken into existence,…. when He spoke it —it came to be! This God is MY GOD! He knows me! And He’s allowed me to know Him! ….. all because of Jesus!
- We can have JOY because this life, this earth-time, if you will, isn’t the bottom line! We’re passing through on our way to eternity-ever-after with Jesus. I remember when I gave birth (and yes…. that was a gazzillion years ago, but one does not forget!!!)…. anyway, I remember thinking “I can stand anything for awhile.” You see, I knew that nobody stays in labor forever! At some point, it ends, and God-willing, you receive the reward of it all…. that for which you’ve “labored”! And as I think about some of the hardest of hard issues in life…. even those aren’t forever. At some point we get to set them aside and move forward into God’s perfect eternity-ever-after, ….. that place where those “hard things” make sense, get closure, or perhaps just don’t matter any more, in the grander scheme of things. All this said…. we can have JOY, even in these hard places, as we keep our gaze shifted upward to the joy set before us…. the joy yet to come!
- And last of all (in my totally NOT all-inclusive list), but the last one that I shall mention is the fact that we can have JOY because in the journey, we have an intercessor…. Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Throne of God. He’s ever watching and ever mindful of all that’s going on in my life. And I trust that even the “seems bad to me” has intent and purpose for Him, within the grander scheme. Ephesians 3:20-21 has long been my favorite verse! It’s quite comforting to me, in the “seems bad to me” category, to KNOW that He’s always up to something…. always doing exceedingly, abundantly more than I can even think, or ask, or imagine! He is an intentional God who acts with purpose…. even if I don’t understand what that purpose might be!
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
And so I come full circle, thinking again of my August 5, 2007 ponderments on life and death…..
On that particular day, I was wondering: what does it all matter? We’re born. We live. We die. And will we matter to anyone 30+ years after we’re gone? Will anyone remember? And it occurs to me now, on December 19, 2019…… I’m not who they need to remember!! It was never about me….. It was always and forever about Jesus! If they remember anything, may they remember that He was my life!
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.