Her meaning was clear: Man can only guess. God knows.
The oncologist shook his head in agreement.
I don’t know what particular belief system he ascribes to, if any, but he was completely and utterly respectful of Mama’s conviction that God has all of our days numbered. She won’t die a moment beforehand, and she won’t live a moment longer than.
Mama’s steadfast belief in God is rock solid.
What is less so is her awareness of her own significance before Him.
When mortality is breathing down your neck like an angry lover, you can’t help but pull away, to ask, What have I done wrong?
The answer for most all of us is plenty.
We have all fallen short of the glory of God, Romans tells us.
What that really means is that we are the ones missing out. When we mess up, we’re the ones losing out on all that God intended for us. God’s glory in the right here and right now.
When we talk about how dark the world seems at times, what we really ought to do is admit our part in that. How because we are failing to be all that God created us to be, failing to be a reflection of Him, others are stumbling around in the darkness.
Does the world seem dark to you?
What are you doing about it?
Sister Tater says the good thing about the world growing so dark is that even the dimmest lights shine bright. Sister Tater and I try to live life on the Sunny Side.
Author Chris Travis provides more perspective on all this in his book, inSignficant: Why You Matter in the Surprising Way God is Changing the World.
A former middle school teacher (in NYC of all places), Travis is now the pastor at Everyday Christian Church in Manhattan. Even the most faithful can experience feelings of despair and worthlessness. And if there is anything that can make a person feel like a complete and utter failure it’s a classroom full of self-righteous and mean-spirited 13-year-olds.
Travis wanted to change his reality in the worst way. I know I said I wanted to do your will, God, but teaching in central Harlem? You can’t be serious, can you?
Travis began to circle the thought wagons: Is Jesus enough? That question wrecked me. It haunted me. What if this was God’s will for the rest of my life? What if he wanted me to work at this little inner-city middle school in central Harlem, to be mostly miserable and ineffective, and to rarely see any reason to believe I was making a difference? Was Jesus enough for me then?
Mama worked as a prison nurse the last 20 years of her 42-year career. That must have seemed a lot like teaching middle school in Harlem. She wasn’t receiving letters of appreciation for a job well done. Her patients weren’t leaving lemon cakes and bouquets of calla lilies as tokens of their thanks.
Shoot, I get fan letters and I still go around questioning whether I am doing what God created me to do. We live in a celebrity-driven culture, among communities filled with people who are wracked with the sense that they are insignificant. The way in which we warehouse the elderly, the sick and the dying in this country can make those individuals feel even more insignificant — as if they are a burden to bear, a cross to carry, a kink in our plans.
What is the first and greatest commandment? Travis asks. To love the Lord your God with all your heart. He didn’t say worship, serve, obey or give. He didn’t even say the greatest commandment was to believe. All these things are important, and they may even be a part of what it means to love. But that doesn’t take away from the simple fact that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God. This is the most significant thing you can do in life.
It’s a simple truth often made more complex by our inability to accept the forgiveness of a God who loves and values us, all the time, when we get it right and when we mess it up, when we are at the top of our game and at the bottom of the barrel, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, when we are young and when we are aging. Our whole life long, he adores us.
We matter to him.
All day. Every day.
Not because of who we are, or what we have done, but because of who He is and what Christ has done.