Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Lenten Reflection

Lovely it is to unfold
The soul and our brief life
- Friedrich Holderlin

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I'm young, but not entirely unaware of my mortality. And with this in mind, sometimes I think and act as if my brief time on earth ought to be ever meaningful, ever important. I dole my time out as if I have only a limited amount and therefore just shouldn't have to be bothered by some things. I attempt to make calculations about the validity of one course of action over another. (Which class should I take? What author should I read? What ministry should I support?) There is some value to this point of view, of course. We are intrinsically limited, finite, dust.

But there's another important dynamic at play in the Ash Wednesday reminder of our mortality: Since life is always a divine gift, it is always therefore an excess. Rather than rationing out our time with a constant eye on calculations (which one could never have certainty about anyway) what would it look like to just live--to live with abandon? This would be a life that is not easily shaken, but rests simply in the knowledge of the givenness of life and the goodness of the giver. And since life is such a gift, it can only be lived authentically when we, in turn, give; we give our love, our time, our devotion, our lives. To live attuned to the givenness of life... that, I think, is a brief life that is lovely to unfold.

8 comments:

Bill said...

What an armfull - to hold both exuberance and frailty at the same time. Only Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, could do that perfectly. Meanwhile we (or I should more clearly claim "I") tend to swing between the extremes.

One of my prayers is that as I continue to center, I will learn better how to hold onto the dynamic tension of exuberant, overflowing joy and fumbling frailty.
Bill

Paul Corrigan said...

John, this is very meaningful to me. I've struggled with the same dilemma of wanting to not "waste" any time. Your exhortation to (also) view life as an excess, an abundance, is a wonderful encouragement. Thanks.

Joy said...

Thank you so much for this poignant reflection, John. I too worry about using my time "efficiently," getting the most out of every second, especially since I've been in Korea - I want to use my short six months here to accomplish my expectations of what is productive, what is important.

Your reflection is a challenge to me to live a life of giving - giving thanks to the God who has given me in excess - to abandon my perception of time, my idea of "waste," and give as extravagantly as I have been given.

Thank you!

RC said...

John, thanks so much for these reflective, wise words. I definitely want to give my life more and more to God and to others. To "let go" of my own ways of measuring and of my desire to control the dynamics. I loved these words of yours as you closed: "And since life is such a gift, it can only be lived authentically when we, in turn, give; we give our love, our time, our devotion, our lives. To live attuned to the givenness of life...." I am grateful to share this kind of longing with you and our community!
--Rickey

living stones said...

When Rickey and I were first married and living in tiny apartment on a street named Tip Top Drive, we took lots of walks because we didn’t have much money for anything else. We were happy and in love, and I often teased Rickey saying we were living the good ol’ days. In those early years, I had a sense of being grateful for the present moment, but as choices are made, as events occur, as life simply happens, living “attuned to the givenness of life” gets more difficult. Now that I am older, I sense I am and have been traveling a familiar spiral staircase. I’m the same, yet I’m different. I am grateful in new and deeper ways for the miracle of the everyday. Your thoughtful, beautiful reflection is another reminder calling me out of myself and encouraging me to continue the journey, living more and more authentically, giving my love, my time, my devotion, my life. Amen and thank you--Anna

living stones said...

John, thanks so much for this reflection. I love this idea of life as a gift. I have been reflecting on time lately and how when we are in God and he is in us we are somehow taken up into his time, which never ends. For me this realization helps with living with abandon, as you mentioned. Thanks again for you words.

Matt

Mark Wills said...

John, the quote you open your post with is beautiful!

I'm struck by Holderlin's phrase "our brief life" as opposed to "our brief lives." As I contemplate this phrase, I see an image of a community unfolding one brief life instead of a crowd unfolding many individual lives.

Thanks for sharing this and putting this thought in our brief life!

Mark Wills said...

After reading your post and making my reply I just read this post on a blog I follow, Redeeming the Time on Glory to God in All Things

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