We so often live in our own moments that we forget to see what wisdom would teach us if we spent time thinking about the passing of life. This Christmas we were with my in laws in North Carolina and I experienced a few moments that have reminded me of the brevity of life.
We know Scripture exhorts us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom. We can read how life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. We can read the great philosophy of Solomon reflecting of the emptiness of life under the sun without any transcendent meaning or reference point. People can tell us that time flies and we can see how shocked we are as the grains of time slip through the hour glasses which are our lives.
Yet there is something helpful in being with people from many generations during our days which help us to experience the truths of Scripture. I had a couple such interactions this week.
The first came as my wife, her father and I watched my six year old daughter swing on a little wooden swing set. The joy of youth seemed to grip us all and it was at that moment where my Father-in-law chose to speak. He said simply:
Now guys, you realize that one third of Kayla's time in your home has already passed and the next two thirds will seem to pass even more quickly.
I realized a few things - I love my kids and I have very mixed emotions about them growing up. First, I already sense an ache of loss - of times spent today which will be lost forever from our grasp. My little girls will soon be past the age of nuzzling up into my arms. I can still hold one on each limb and I already mourn that this will not last forever. At the same moment I have loved watching them learn, grow and become. I don't like it, but I rejoice in the process. I also paused to say - yeah, she is only 4-6 years from hitting puberty. Oh dear Jesus help out Dad.
The second moment came with my wife's grandfather Elmer Underwood. Papaw, as Kasey calls him, is a spry 84 year old preacher who has worked as a carpenter for much of his life. He was an encouragement to me, as he has often been, in my calling to the gospel. This holiday was different for Elmer because 2007 marked the passing of his beloved wife Betty. Betty went to be with Jesus and I missed her this Christmas. I know Elmer misses her very much. It was almost like she wasn't dead - I caught myself mentally thinking, "Where is Mamaw?" a few times when Papaw and I were together.
Death is not a comfort nor a kind companion to humanity. It is an enemy that comes upon us in stealth. We ignore his coming, we feel and sense as if "today" will continue in perpetuity. Yet there is a calling upon each of our lives where we will pass from this age into eternity. So many of us run to and fro building piles of stuff in our homes, seeking accomplishments for ourselves and looking to advance in life. Far too often we forget to stop and think - this is ALL soon coming to an end.
I thank God that my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law spoke and exhibited wisdom to me this week - I am hugging my kids more, thanking God more and have my now mingled with both joy and sadness as this life continues to ebb away. If but for this life we had hope we should be most pitied among men - an apostle once wrote these words. Yet thanks be to Christ, the resurrected one who promises eternal life to all who believe. Will he allow me to put my girls to bed in feety pajamas in the life to come? I'm not sure - I kind of hope so. But I do know I have a few more laps around that track here on earth. I want to run well - going to nuzzle a bit tonight as we head off to bed.