I went to the bank yesterday to deposit the check representing the money I inherited from my mom. People take checks to the bank all the time – or, if they’re like me, to the drive-up cash machine, filling out an envelope while using their steering wheel as a desk. But this check was different, and not just because I actually went and handled the transaction with a human instead of a colorful machine.
I held in my hand a paper representing a lifetime of my parents’ hard work. I remembered my dad coming home with road salt smudges all over his pants because he’d been crawling around junk yards, taking pictures of cars that had been in accidents. (He was an insurance adjuster.) I remembered the place my mom worked throughout the second half of my childhood – the gritty office of a plastic bag factory. We used to joke that her job was to test each bag to make sure there were no holes in them. They invested and saved and planned and met with their accountant and financial guy to ensure they’d have a comfortable retirement, and to make sure that my sister and I would have something after they were gone.
And here it was, in my hand. Neither of them lived long enough to have the retirement they’d dreamed of. All of that work and effort and love for my sister and I was now a piece of paper with some numbers on it. I am grateful for it, but it is not a joyful gift. It is sad and sobering.
The bard John Lennon observed, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” It occurs to me that death happens the in much the same way.
Jesus paired his parable about what had consumed a rich man’s life with some very pointed teaching about the choices we make about how to best invest our lives. (You can find the passage here.) And I’m asking today because this passage has become 3-D in my life in a new way because of the soul-sadness I felt as I held the check in my hand: What does investing in eternity look like here? Now? My words and confession of faith proclaim one thing, but my checkbook and datebook say something else.