Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Perspective, Please!

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”
Victor Hugo

                In the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is for many reasons a particular favorite of mine, there is a quote that speaks of what we call in good old English slang guts. The young protagonist, Francie Nolan, is thinking about how it seems that in plays and movies, things never get quite as bad as they could. At the last minute, something miraculous occurs or a hero sweeps in to save the day. But what if that didn’t happen? Would the people still go on living? Francie thinks to herself, “You betcha they’d live. It takes a lot of doing to die.” This is an idea born out of Francie’s own poverty-filled, daily struggle to survive. Yet throughout the novel, we see that Francie and her family love life, however painful it may be. They can’t get enough of it. And I believe that at heart, that’s how most of us really are.

                Perspective is everything. On Monday I went on a day trip with my sister to Cawhaba, the site of Alabama’s first capitol as well as a Civil War prison. I thought about the variety of lives that were lived,and were snuffed out, on the very sites where we stood. I thought about the slaves, and their owners, and the Union prisoners, and the Confederate soldiers, and the myriad stories that took place centuries before I was born. People worked and played, romanced and married, laughed and cried, suffered and struggled. They loved and they dreamed. They had their hopes crushed time and again. Yet through it all, they lived. We tend to think of ourselves as existing separately from those who came before and those who will come after, but from God’s perspective, it is all happening right now, and He sees the ultimate end.

                When I returned home Monday evening, my husband had had a very bad day that included Internet problems, a broken air conditioner, and the demise of Jim the Fish. For the past two nights we have camped downstairs in the living room because it is stifling upstairs-but at least we had air conditioning downstairs. Furthermore, at least we have a home. Having watched a “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday evening about homeless people living in their cars and daily trying to survive while praying they don’t get their children taken away from them, I just can’t complain too much. By tonight, we will have air upstairs again.True, it is an unexpected expense, but by God’s grace we have the money to pay for it. It was no surprise to Him.

                And what if we didn’t have the money? Well, we would make do until we did. Making do is a concept with which I am quite familiar. It isn’t always easy, or always fun, but it keeps people going until something else happens. I have no desire to lie down and die. I want to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I want to lose another fifty pounds or more and be able to hike and swim with ease. I want to watch Raina barrel race in rodeos with Legend.I want to finish writing my novel. There’s a lot more of life to be lived and a lot more people to love.

                For the past three weeks I’ve been sick-sicker, really, than I cared to admit. I went to the doctor yesterday for a follow-up on my bloodwork and indeed, my liver is a bit more inflamed than it was before.  Because of this, coupled with my symptoms, the doctor ordered an ultrasound. Does that scare me a little? Yes. I am human. I don’t want to have something wrong with me. But the doctor also said that he has never known anyone to die from this. At worst, I might have to eventually have a liver transplant, if it got really bad. I know someone who has had a liver transplant and he is doing fine. When it is my time, it will be my time. Chances are that I will live to be very old, but stuff does happen. For a Christian, there are worse things than dying anyway. I rarely contemplate my mortality, but when I do I always remember that there is Something beyond. It’s called eternity.

                It is so important to keep things in perspective, and, because God is good, He gives us whatever we need to face whatever we have to face. From broken air conditioners to unspeakable losses, He holds us in His arms, and we are safe. Not only is he good, but he is merciful. Today He gave me something new to think about, which is the creative writing class I will be teaching when school starts. I guess He wanted to make sure I didn’t waste too much time worrying about the ultrasound. I have been wanting to teach creative writing for awhile now, and He decided that this would be the perfect time. What a blessing it is to know that He is wise-too wise, as the song says, to be mistaken.

                On my own, I have no courage for life’s great sorrows or patience even for the small annoyances. On my own I worry and fret, fume and yell, weep and lament. Sometimes that’s okay, because we are human and God understands. But I won’t be like Jonah, who, when we leave him at the end of the story, is sitting on a hill overlooking Ninevah, fuming and sulking because God didn’t handle things the way Jonah thought he should. I’d much rather be a Job, who emerged from his suffering with a whole new perspective. He just humbled himself and admitted that God was God. The fact that God restored his fortunes is really just a postscript. The real triumph was Job’s understanding that there were things he could never comprehend.

                We are so prideful. I know that I have often said, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God about why He did such-and –such. “ But the reality is that I won’t. I’ll be too busy praising and worshiping Him. I will know all that I need to know. In that place that transcends place, in that time beyond time, I will be so fully who I was intended to be that nothing will matter except His glory. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am more graceful than the Olympic gymnasts I have admired since I was a little girl. Unlimited, unencumbered by things like weight and pain and gravity, maybe I will even be able to fly. I’m gonna “play all over God’s Heaven.” It will be beautiful.

                Until then, all we can do is live our lives as completely as we can, following His will as best we can, trusting Him to guide us. Hopefully, we will have our own little Fellowship of family and friends to see us through. God has put so many amazing people into my life, and I have had so much love in my life already, I don’t see how it could be any better.The very idea that  there is Something More excites me and delights my soul. What a wonderful world it is-and how much greater is the next!

“Oh weary,tired and worn, let out your sighs
and drop that heavy load you hold 'cause Mine is light
I know you through and through; there's no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep and high and wide

 I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
your heart's desires.”

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