God has Given You a Life. Use it with Love.

God has Given You a Life. Use it with Love. March 1, 2024

Hieronymous Bosch, Ascent of the Blessed, Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

One of the many pleasures of these years of infirmity and advancing age is the gift of time. 

Convalescence from cancer, heart attacks, strokes and the like is a slow process that involves doing things that are difficult and that I don’t like such as exercise, changed diet, and forbearance on the one hand, and long, fallow days of learning a new normal, and a new way to structure my life and living on the other hand. 

I can’t do everything I once could do. But I can do a lot. However, doing a lot requires forethought on my part and also a bit of discipline. It’s a learning process, all of it; learning my limits, and learning how, with work and unyielding determination, to gradually extend those limits. 

Because — and only because — I have Medicare, I also have the great fit of rehab, complete with wonderful therapists and nurses to guide me through it. It makes a huge difference. 

At the same time, I can tell you that it’s no slam dunk. It hurts. And it’s not easy. The road to recovery is littered with long days of no progress and even longer days of set backs and regression. It is not a steady uphill climb. It’s a hand-over-hand crawl over rocky terrain, that once in a while suddenly turns level and soft. When I began, I couldn’t walk three blocks, and I couldn’t stand long enough to buy a loaf of bread in a grocery store.  

What I could do was decide. I decided to show up and do the do. Then, I decided to walk to the end of the drive way. Then — and this is the key — in a few hours, I did it again. 

It takes time. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And it changes so slowly that it doesn’t seem like it’s changing at all while it’s happening. But one day I realize that things I couldn’t do at all before are now easy. It happens when you’re not looking, when you’re just keeping on keeping on.  

In all those months — and it took months — of pain and frustration interspersed with periods of regression and defeat — I had to be determined enough, committed enough, stubborn enough to keep going. I still have to keep at it. There is no end to the fight for life. 

Do it again. Fight another round. Don’t quit. That is the equation. 

One simple thing has kept me going through these things and many others that came before earlier in my life. It is faith. 

I know there is a God. I have experienced Him. I know He loves me with a love that I can’t find words to describe. I have experienced the inpouring of that love. 

I also know that I am alive in this world for a reason. I am not the product of random chance. I am a product of intention. 

And if I am alive, then there is a reason for it. I don’t have to do great things. I don’t have to be significant in the world’s eyes. I don’t have to do or be anything but myself. I … me … the self that I am … is enough. 

In fact, it is more than enough. It is everything. The universe God created is a magnificent thing. It’s vastness and its almost incomprehensible mathematically complex simplicity is so awesome that it makes us stutter when we try to describe what we have learned of it. 

But it is also, at least so far as we now know, cold and dead. Other worlds with other lives may spin out their destiny in the far reaches of this vast existence. But what we see around us with our powerful telescopes and mathematical prognostications about the origins of things is so dead that it never died. There is and never was any life in it. 

What we see is a beautiful nothingness. Matter. Just matter. 

It is so obvious to me that the miracle in all that is not the mysteries of matter, but the fact that we were created by those forces that God set in motion and that He keeps in motion, that He guides and controls. The fact that all that time and matter led to us and we can see what He created, and over time, through the slow accretion of knowledge, seek to unravel and understand at least a part of how He did it is the miracle. 

We are the miracle. Life is the miracle. You are the miracle. I am the miracle. 

And none of us is an accident. We are here, now, at this time, to be part of the 15 billion year history of creation. We are here to play our part, do our part, and to be ourselves. 

I said that we are the miracle, and that is true. But the miracle of miracles is that the God Who made all this, who breathed existence into existence and Who wills it to continue, cares about us; not the vast body of teeming humanity that is playing out its story in the long line of creation, not even the much broader and unknown body of all life in this universe that is almost certainly blundering as we are along its path to whatever future awaits. 

God cares about you. God cares about me. He knows and is willing to interact with each of us individually. He — and I can testify to this from my own experience — will pour such ecstatic love and joy into us that I have never found the words to describe it. 

We are mortal. We are finite. We are made of the dust of this earth and, as Scripture says, we will all one day go back to being that same dust once again. Scientists with a heart for poetry have told us that we are made of star dust, of the matter that exploding stars from billions of years ago spewed into space as part of their own end. 

We are a part of this creation. And yet, we stand on this little rock, circling an ordinary star in one of the farther arms of an ordinary spiral galaxy that exists quite a distance from the center of the universe and we slowly unravel how God Himself did what He did to make it so. 

In all the vastness of space and time, that is not ordinary, this comprehension of how it happened. There may be other lives on other planets who can do the same thing. But what we see when we look out there is vast unknowing, unaware, blank lifelessness. 

I think we are special. We may — or may not — be unique in our ability to trace God’s creative finger back through time to the beginning. But we are special. 

Our specialness goes far beyond our comprehension of basic scientific ideas. In fact, if that’s all we are, then we really are just animate matter that is doomed to die and fall back into its disparate parts. But that is not even close to what we are. 

We are beings of such importance that the God Who made everything there is cares about us, interacts with us and even became one of us. 

What that means to me as I face the many challenges of living in a failing body is that my life is important. It is not important because I do great things. My life is important because God Himself cares about me. 

I am here for a reason. One day, I will die and, as Scriptures say, “be gathered to my people.” I take that literally. I will meet the people I love who have gone before me once again. But the best thing is that I am going to see Christ. I will experience the ecstatic love that poured into me long ago without the barriers of our physical world to dilute it. 

One of the gifts of these years of illness and convalescence has been time. Time to read Scripture. Time to pray. Time to think. 

Another gift has been the knowledge of God and His always-with-me Presence that comes from having cancer, heart attacks and strokes. I’ve learned that Corrie ten Boom spoke truth when she said, “There is no pit so deep that He is not there.” 

One thing I’ve learned that I’m trying to share with you is that you are special. You are loved. You matter. Your life is important. 

You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to be anything. You don’t have to search out some great plan that you think God has for your life. He loved you when you were a single cell, and He will love you when your body is dust, because you are a living soul made in His Image. You are His child. 

No matter who you are or what you have done, Jesus Christ stands ready to take you to His heart.

You matter. You always matter. Everything you do matters. 

God has given you a life. Use it with love and faithfulness. Because you are loved. 

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