Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
It’s that time of year again. While Santa is making a list and checking it twice, most of us are formulating our own lists for him. Have you started your Christmas list yet? While I haven’t actually written anything down yet, I can take a lawn mower and a blue North Face pullover off my list. I own them now because they both belonged to dead men.
Forgive the lack of euphemism, but the matter of fact-ness is intended.
The lawn mower belonged to my wife’s grandfather who passed away two weeks ago. Another one of her relatives died of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) recently. How do you put to words the feeling of wearing someone’s jacket that faced one of the most painful and lonely exits from this world?
The word sobering isn’t quite sufficient. As I wore the jacket, I looked around the room at all of my other stuff. Ghostly names began to appear on everything. Names of the people who will own my things when I’m gone. What if your Christmas list had two columns:
Things I Want From Santa Person Who Will Get This When I Die
Our things will scatter to others like the seeds of a dandelion in the spring breeze. If we’re honest, we admit that we spend most of our time envisioning the empire that we will leave behind rather than picturing the yard sale of our belongings. Surely our legacy will surpass the boundaries of ancient Rome, we subconsciously plot.
James writes, “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:10) Similarly Isaiah proclaims, “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.’” It’s even more sobering to realize that in the Palestine of which these men wrote, grass stayed green only a few weeks.
The reality of death humbles one before God like nothing else. And in that light, the assurance of death becomes a merciful opportunity to worship the one who made us like grass and yet cares about us down to the root and loves us wildly while we wither.