I have been thinking this week about God being the one who prepares us for leaving our mortal bodies behind. It is hard to imagine how we will view our earthly lives once they are past. These days on earth seem so real now, but I think later they will feel like only a dream. I hope I won't forget what it was like to eat a Banana Nut crepe at Tandem or to waterski or to read The Secret Garden to my kids. I hope I won't forget a Sunday morning at Village Church or July 4th at the lake. I think I will miss my commonplace books and the sunshine the most.
But these words from Scripture encourage me to be of good courage. When the mortal is swallowed up by immortality, and time by eternity, the things I have known and loved will no longer fill needs in the same way. The linear will lose its luster and the pull of gravity its power to weigh us down any longer. The old will be made new once and for all. Our bodies, our minds, our hearts - all those parts of us we could never understand or fully command on earth - will be made perfect. Far above our flawed lives on earth, we will fly.
The waiting and the appetizers will be over, and finally the meal will begin. We will partake with gusto of the life we have longed for. Nobody will care about gluten, and all will be well, at last.
Until then, God is the only one who can help us to wait well and to willingly endure what we are given in our earthly lives. Nature, friends, and stories help immensely too. In her book Plan B, Anne Lamott writes of the astonishment that we are "all doing so well with such difficult material as being alive, having parents, kids, bodies, minds, certain presidents." It is a miracle that even as we wade through the sadness and the grief of our mortal lives, we get to have sunshine, summer, and songs on the radio, not to mention friends who will suffer alongside us and stay for the long haul.
After learning recently of the difficult paths that a couple friends of mine have been given to walk, I wrote a poem as a way to acknowledge that I have not known nearly as much suffering as some others in this life. This poem is a prayer, a preparation to accept all that mortality means, and a promise that together we can and will find joy.
"Why Not Me"
I have not known sadness,
Not known grief,
But I have known people
Who have known both.
I taste of their tears, their fears,
And see them gather what remains.
I learn by watching
That one can survive what is unsurvivable.
I do not wish to partake fully -
Just as Jesus asked if there was another way.
He went on and through
So that we can too:
You for me, and me for you.
Until my dying day,
I hope I get to practice
Many small deaths
So that I learn where true life lies.
To watch another's suffering
Is not the sort of practice I mean -
But if this is the way,
Let me take on and hold some of their pain.
For in sharing the pain,
I am sharing the good news
That even if I can't answer "why not me,"
I can help break the fall for another.
It is like falling from a tightrope
And not seeing a net beneath:
Only to realize the whole thing was a dream
And you can fly anyway.
We trust that your ways are good, O God.
Refresh us in your kindness.
Renew us as often as it takes.
Make our bitter places springs of joy.
Only You know why.
Only You know how.