Saturday, April 23, 2011

Better Things Ahead



“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind”  -

—C.S. Lewis

John was my best friend, an enthusiastic dispenser of goodness and kindness, a fountain of perpetual joy. I called him Jolly John.

I thought that John and I would be friends forever…  But he died.

Augustine wrote in his Confessions of a friend much like John who was “half of his soul.” When his friend unexpectedly died, Augustine was inconsolable, for he too thought his friendship would last forever. He had loved “one that must die, as if he would never die,” he wrote. This Augustine called, “loving a man as a (mere) man.”

Augustine’s friend became a follower of Jesus on his deathbed and Augustine followed him into faith soon after. Then he wrote in his Confessions, “He was not yet my friend (before our conversion) as afterwards…for true (friendship) it cannot be, unless You join us together…by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us… Blessed is he who loves You and his friend in You… For he alone loses none who are dear to (You), for those who are dear (to You) cannot be lost.”

John is not lost to me, for I will see him again quite soon—younger, better, stronger, wiser and more joyous than ever before. And we will be friends forever.

How do I know? In the risen Christ I see the end for which I was made and the confidence to believe it. These “few atoms, blown to dust,” will form again in a better life, in which there is no parting. Dividing death will have been defeated. I will be joined forever and ever with John and all my other loved ones who are waiting for me there.

George MacDonald wrote, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but the Lord will give back again better than ever before.” We’re all getting closer to that great day!

DHR

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fathers and Sons

 “I just wish I could have told him in the living years.”

—Mike and the Mechanics

My father was a good father, and, in most respects, I was a dutiful son. But I allowed my father to starve for the one thing I could have given him: myself. He was a quiet man; I was equally silent. We often worked for hours side by side and scarcely a word passed between us. He never asked; I never told him my deepest desires and dreams, my hopes and fears.

In time I woke up to my reticence. Perhaps the perception came when my first-born came into the world, or when, one by one, my sons went out into the world. Now I wish I had been more of a son to my father while I was under his roof. I think of all the things I could have told him. And all the things he could have told me. At his funeral I stood beside his casket for the last time, struggling to understand my emotions. “It’s too late, isn’t it?” Carolyn said quietly. Exactly.

My comfort lies in the fact that I’ll be able to make things up in heaven, for is that not where every relationship will be set right? George MacDonald thought so: “What a disintegrated mass were the world, what a lump of half-baked brick, if death were indeed the end of affection! if there were no chance more of setting right what was so wrong in the loveliest relations! How gladly would many a son who once thought it a weariness to serve his parents, minister now to their lightest need! and in the boundless eternity is there no help?” (Home Again: A Tale).

Death is not the end of affection, but the beginning of timeless existence in which there will be no more secrets and love will grow forever. Then, the hearts of sons will be turned to their fathers and the hearts of fathers to their sons. Then, we’ll pay attention to the things that matter most.

DHR

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Three Questions

Leo Tolstoy tells a story about a king who believed that he would never fail at any enterprise if he had the answer to three questions: (1) What is the right time for any action? (2) Who are the people that matter? And, (3) in each situation, what is the most important thing to do?
None of the wise men of his kingdom could answer the king’s questions, so he disguised himself as a peasant and went out among his people to find the answers.

In his quest, he came across an old hermit who was digging in his garden. The King approached him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: “What is the right time for any action? Who are the people that matter? And, in each situation, what is the most important thing to do?”
The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.
"You must be tired," said the King, "let me take the spade and work awhile for you."
While he was at work a man appeared who had been grievously wounded. The king bandaged his wounds only to discover that the man was an assassin sent to kill him, but, while the king was helping the hermit, the king’s men had discovered the plot and had wounded him. The would-be assassination asked the king for forgiveness which he freely granted.
Later, the king asked the hermit once again the answer to his questions
The hermit answered, “When that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.
There you have it: What is the right time for any action? Now! This minute! Neither the past nor the future have any real existence; the present is the only time we have the power to act. Who is the person that matters? The one in front of us, for every person we meet in this world, if we only knew it, is fraught with deep and desperate need. And what is the most important action? To love that person by being good to him, “because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!” (Tolstoy).
What a marvelous simplification! — reminiscent of the conversation Jesus had with the lawyer about loving one’s neighbor and the young man’s self–justifying question, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply, our Lord told the story of the Good Samaritan, the point of which is:  The very next person you meet (Luke 10:27-29).
DHR

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