Begin with the end in mind. One of Stephen Covey’s hallowed seven habits of highly successful people, and for someone like me, fielding so many different daily challenges from both expected and unexpected fronts, so very challenging. The same Lord who reminded us to worry only about today as tomorrow will hold plenty of its own distinctive concerns is the same Savior who says that now the hour has come just before He dies to complete the arc of salvation. Jesus told us He comes from God and is returning to God, stating boldly from the agony of the cross, “It is finished/completed/accomplished!” The Gospels portray Jesus as inhabiting acutely both the present moment and the arc of His salvific mission perfectly balanced, perfectly integrated. That’s why He is the Son of God, and why I so desperately need to watch the Master as we apprentice Him during this Lenten season.
On Ash Wednesday I preached upon this habit as if we all had just 40 days (absent Sundays of course) in which to live, seeking to imbue Lent with a personal urgency our Christian forebears evidently felt with intensity. This weekend I received a profound blessing of companioning a beloved friend whose remaining earthly life is measured in roughly our Lenten time frame. For her, Easter joy will be dawning in the most complete and decisive way possible, as her resurrection dawn will be the ultimate light she sees. As Paul so lyrically writes, then she shall see face to face, then she shall know as she has been fully known. I have zero doubt about the eternal abundance of faith, hope and abiding love awaiting my dear friend. Her gift to me is how she is navigating the days left to her now. She is balanced, peaceful, so expressively grateful for those she has practiced loving her entire life now reflecting her love back to her in the most poignant of ways. She faces her death with anticipation, trust and confidence sufficient to put any cleric to shame.
As so often happens in the Christian life, I came to give and am leaving full to the brim with the gifts she gave to me and everyone surrounding her. Not once did she reference daylight savings change inconvenience, oil prices, cruise ship contagion, primaries, or global turmoil. Not once did she ever complain about her own pain, discomfort or fear. Her only remaining medication is a very enthusiastic afternoon cocktail hour, enjoying the afternoon view of sky surrounded by equally enthused family members, not unlike communion. That’s worth a disrupted Lenten alcohol fast for a day isn’t it??!! She is giving us all a gift of perspective on what is truly important versus what is irritatingly distracting, loud and deceptively urgent. Her end is well in mind and she means to enjoy the remaining journey to the fullest. Do we?!
- Have we reflected seriously upon our own earthly ends, not in morbidity but in profundity? How might we spend our final days upon this earth?
- Have we begun today with that ultimate end in mind? If not can we pivot today to reflecting our deepest faith, hope and love in simple and concrete ways?
- I challenge myself, and anyone reading these reflections, to be mindful of what is important versus what is urgent, loud and clamoring today and during the remaining days in Lent! To who and to what must we attend today in the “absolutely critically important” category?
Warmly in the Lord,