Yet another birthday. If I keep this up a few more years, I’ll outlive my father. We always were a bit competitive.
Sixty-two years old may not seem like a lot to some folks, but it seems like a lot to me. Like rings on an old tree, each year marks a tale of infinite complexity.
I am reminded of the Grateful Dead song, The Wheel:
The wheel is turning
and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you,
then the lightning will.
I will say, 2020 has been a doozy. I like the meme depicting the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine with the white-haired professor standing over Michael J. Fox. The professor’s bubble text is “Whatever you do, don’t punch in 2020.”
Floods, tornados, plague, riots, trade war, Deep State, economic collapse, stock market crash, etc. It’s been quite a wild ride this year, all made worse by our new social media environment where insane rumors and conspiracy theories promulgated by amateur bloggers has replaced thoughtful attempts at objective journalism by professionals. Where does this end?
I’m not worried. I am at peace. This is not our world, but God’s world. He is in charge and it won’t blow up until he wants it to. He’s proven to be most tolerant and graceful to his creation, although I wouldn’t want to test that limit.
The world may seem crazy, but not to an Ecclesiastes guy like me. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s all been seen before, a million times over. Sinful humans full of lust, pride and envy seeking material conquest when the real answer is spiritual salvation. We can’t help ourselves.
One thing has changed: The pace has quickened. We now have this smartphone linking us instantly to all the information in the world. Ultimately, this is a good thing, but there will be some big bumps in the road.
At a young age, I realized life could be nasty, brutish and short. My goal was to get through with as little pain as possible, to immunize myself from the harsh realities of life. I tried my best, but I couldn’t do it. The hardships found me hiding behind a rock and quickly overturned it.
I remember Ginny and I driving back from a difficult experience. We were commiserating about our struggles at the time, which now in reflection, don’t seem so serious.
We went down our list of people we knew well. Every one of them had encountered overwhelming struggles in their lives. Not a single one had gotten through life unscathed. The only ones who seemed unscathed were the ones we really didn’t know that well.
In reality, life is designed that way. Wishing for a pain-free life is wishing for no life. It is, in fact, our pain and struggles that define us, that makes us who we are.
Which comes to my favorite Bible passage, Romans 5:3. “We should glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Did you get that? Suffering, perseverance, character, hope. Once you have hope, you have everything. If there is anyone out there for whom this isn’t true, please let me know.
I could sit you down for an afternoon and tell you the story of my life in great detail. I could vividly describe disappointment after disappointment. Terrible bad luck. Huge missed opportunities. Sickness. Disease. Betrayal. Addiction. Relentless sin. At the end of the day, you would think I lived a truly horrible life.
Or on another afternoon, I could tell you the story of a life of unbelievable joy, lucky break after lucky break. Prosperity, wealth, fun times, happiness, health, great friends, perfect family, vacations galore, laughter upon end. Not a worry in the world.
Both stories would be equally true in their own way. The only real difference is attitude. The only difference is which of the millions of events in my life I choose to focus on, the good ones or the bad ones. And so it is in life for each of us. It’s just a question of which door you choose.
You can choose door number one. Life is meaningless. There is no God. We exist by chance, the product of a cruel cosmic joke. Nothing matters. We all die and it’s over.
Or you can choose door number two: We were created by a loving God who knows every hair on our head. This life is a brief struggle paving the way for an eternity of paradise where everything will make sense. Disease, death and tears will be a distant memory. Our memories will be perfectly intact and we will forever be surrounded by those we knew and loved on Earth.
I choose door number two. Why would anyone choose otherwise?
Today, we are mired in Coronadoom. We shiver in fear, afraid to leave our homes, attend a wedding or funeral, shake hands or even go to a party. This is not a life. This is not who we are.
It seems pretty hopeless. But wait, a hundred different vaccines are under development that could profoundly alter our ability to fight disease throughout the future of humanity. After diddling around for decades, we might finally get serious about conquering the hundreds of viruses that have plagued us for eons. We now have the technology. The only thing lacking was our will. And now we have that.
God works in mysterious ways. He seems to have abandoned us for the moment from our narrow, selfish perspective. But this is an illusion. We are about to witness the triumph of man over virus, a victory that will save far more lives in the future than we are tragically losing today.
Before it’s all over, we will look back in awe, and it will seem as though some unbelievably powerful force is guiding us through this storm. It will seem that way because it is.