What Really Matters

Having trouble sleeping tonight… Thinking about yesterday, tomorrow, and Friday, and the effect these days have had and will have on my ever-changing life, and the lives of those I love most.  Perspective shifting sharply into focus as it tends to do when we face the loss of one we love, making me painfully aware of how casually I get up each day and assume all will be well and life will not be interrupted by death.  I was lying in bed, praying for my Aunt Pat, my mom and her remaining brother and sisters, and hurting for the sadness they all are feeling tonight.  I listened to my husband’s even breathing, laid my hand on his chest to feel it rise and fall, and thought to myself that it all seems so unfair, that there is a wife wondering how on earth she will ever learn to sleep alone, live alone, eat alone… It is too much to ask, isn’t it? That we be willing to give back to God the one He put beside us? That imperfect, flawed and fallen man that we came to see as the perfect person to fight with, to sleep next to, to lean on and to hold up sometimes…I just can’t really wrap my mind around it tonight.  What it must feel like to be not asked, but forced to let go of that hand…

One of my aunts said yesterday that thing we all think when faced with our mortality, “Live each day like it is your last.” And I’ve heard it said, sung, preached, and taught many times before, but this time I really pondered that statement.  For me, what would that look like?  How would I want to spend my very last day? I feel certain it would not include sky-diving or any other extreme sport. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I would just want to spend it with the people I love.  I would want to mend some bridges I’ve burned, I would want to hug some necks I haven’t hugged in a while, and I would want to make sure and kiss all my babies a whole lot, and hold my husband’s hand.  I think I would want to say a lot, because I always have a lot to say… But I would be more careful and intentional about the words I speak.  No time for subtlety or sugar-coating.  Just the truth, in love, with boldness.  (I have a friend that can do this. She can cut to the chase, be as blunt and efficient as can be, and still manage to make me feel loved.  This is a rare gift, indeed. But, I digress…)

All of that, I guess, is just a way of being ready to say goodbye, right?  To make sure those you love KNOW they are loved, to forgive, to ask forgiveness… To give real hugs (I am not good at this) and to kiss more cheeks.  I think what I’m saying is I realize maybe I have been too reserved? Held back a little too much? Waited to see if I perceived love and acceptance before extending it?  I’m always so afraid of coming on too strong that I stand back and don’t give myself fully to those I love.  I give them a small part of me, the part I think they will approve of, instead of saying ”To heck with that, I love you, and like it or not I’m gonna act like it!”  I have regretted many words that have come out of my mouth (or fingertips) in my lifetime, but I don’t want to come to the end of it and regret NOT having said words that heal hearts and mend bridges because I was afraid of rejection.

Life is relationships. And relationships are hard.  And giving ourselves fully to flawed and imperfect people is scary, indeed.  But what good is self-protection in the end?  Sure, it might protect us from the pain of disappointment and rejection, but it will inevitably bring the heartache of loneliness.  And choosing not to love might protect us from the pain of loss, but will rob us of the true joy in living.  And choosing not to forgive might momentarily soothe our pride, but in the end, isn’t our own pride always the most vicious enemy of our soul?

I read this tonight and it brought fresh tears, “The good news: not that the good are rescued, (because what news would that be?), but the bad, the very bad, are loved, bought, redeemed. This is the thing: The only thing that fixes what’s broken is forgiveness.”  (Ann Voskamp, http://www.aholyexperience.com) And I wonder if my uncle had time? Time enough to mend the bridges and extend forgiveness, to say all the words he wanted to say? And I know he loved well, he was one of the warmest people in my life, but don’t we all run out of time eventually? We know Christ forgives…. And we are rescued… Can we also rescue each other by forgiving?  I want to live my life with this kind of mind, this kind of heart… That sees only the beauty of the cross in those difficult relationships, the opportunity to give and to receive Grace.  And then I read “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47) Oh how I want to love BIG.  And I have truly been forgiven MUCH.  So it is this I want to nail down tonight…. That I will forgive and love in the same measure I have been forgiven and loved, or as close to it as possible for my poor mess of a human heart.

These late night ramblings often make me wake up in a panic over being a little too vulnerable, a little too real… I’m sure I’ll feel that way tomorrow too. But maybe now I can go to sleep with a little more clarity, a little better grasp of what matters.  Love. Forgiveness.  It all comes down to these.

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