It’s so often true that beauty can come out of ashes. There are circumstances, especially when a parent loses a child, where it seems impossible that something good can come from that loss. I do believe in collateral good. Tragedy brings with it a unique opportunity for people to show God’s love to their fellow-man and inspires a deeper, more heartfelt love. And I’m seeing that a lot this Christmas. In the way God showed up in Newtown to comfort the grieving parents. In the way people gave their time and money to help the victims of Sandy rebuild their homes. In gestures of incredible love born from that deep place when you get it – that nothing else really matters. That unique period of time when the veil is lifted and everyone “gets it.”
That moment of peace. Like when congress stood on the steps of the capital and sang God Bless America. Like the Christmas Truce between German and English soldiers along the Western Front in 1914. Like the end of Grinch when even though all the people of Whoville had their Christmas gifts stolen they held hands and sang giving thanks for Christmas anyway. Why does it take tragedies for people to see clearly? And why can’t that clarity last?
Because it isn’t practical. Because the world and it’s ways creep back in. Perhaps because in tragedies we are given a rare gift. A glimpse at the world God wishes for us. A glimpse at the reason there is a Christmas at all. We were given the gift of Jesus Christ because there is sin in this world. Sin is the true reason for Christmas. And in tragedies it is a rare time when many people see their need for Jesus (the ultimate demonstration of God’s love) unlike any other time and then to share it with others. It makes us appreciate that gift so much.
When we are incredibly blessed with talents, money, possessions, or people, we so easily begin to take things for granted. It’s human nature. And I believe the root of most sin. Pride sets in. We begin to boast of all we have, all we accomplish, all our plans. We take all the credit. And then we are stunned when our blessings are revoked. We often raise our fists at God in those moments angry that He took something away from us we thought we had earned.
But in that anger is a lesson that if you are wise enough to learn, is the ultimate lesson of life. He gives and He takes away. It is the hardest truth to grasp. But in tragedy sometimes we see it clearer than other times.
I personally know of three families who are grieving over a loss of a loved one this week. My dear friend Buddy passed away yesterday after a vicious battle with multiple myeloma. I spent the morning looking for an email I sent him when I first heard he was sick thanking him for the influence he’s been in my life. I never found it and that breaks my heart a little. I wish I could read back his response to me. I remember it being very loving and sweet. He fought so hard to the end. He made it home after 140 days in the hospital and within the hour breathed his final breath surrounded my his entire family. They will have a sad Christmas this year but they will know peace in their hearts knowing he is not suffering anymore. He was 60. Another family lost their little 5-year-old daughter during a severe asthma attack. 5 years.
Time is our most precious commodity and most of us waste it caring about trivial things. I cried like a baby last night in the lap of my daughter who consoled me by saying, “Shhhh” and stroking my hair. All I could think about was all the time I have wasted in my life.
As I get older, things that I thought were once important turn out not to be. I watch the news a lot less. I don’t really care who becomes president. I let people go who annoy me, or who have wronged me without much internal struggle. If I mess up I’m quicker to give myself a break instead of beating myself up. I’m not in a rush to impress anyone. I’ve whittled down my priorities to a few things.
I want to provide the best well-lived life for me and the people I love, namely Harry, my son and my daughter. It means doing the best with my work, with my home, and with my heart. That’s it. Putting God first is where I start. In the end it is really all that matters.
And whether we are given 5 years or 60, or 80 or 100. Time to love in all ways is the ultimate gift.