With the advent of a new year I am reminded of how fleeting our time on earth is. Instead of treasuring each day we worry about tomorrow, stew over the past, fill our moments with compulsive activity. It's hard to admit just how vulnerable we human beings are. Life is fragile and fleeting. How tragic that in our busyness we miss those special moments that could feed our souls and expand our hearts.
In 1989 I went into the hospital for fairly routine surgery; read and signed the papers that stated all the possible things that could go wrong, and quipped to my daughter, “No problem, Piece of cake.” Three major surgeries within 6 weeks and one code blue later, I emerged weaker but wiser.....and vastly more appreciative of the preciousness of life.
I no longer assume a tomorrow. Each day is a gift. Rain or shine, cheerful or sad, difficult or easy, each day is a bonus. Knowing that I or one of my loved ones may have no tomorrow is one of the greatest gifts I gained from my hospital experience. Instead of making me fearful, my awareness of life's impermanence helps me appreciate and shape the time I have. It impels me to be grateful in and for all things. The very fragility with which I hold on to life motivates me to cherish each single moment, each sunrise, each bird song, each encounter with strangers or friends. I simply don't have time to be grumpy, ungrateful, or afraid.
I no longer feel compelled to save the world. I've released my need to be someone, to make a difference. I have my hands full, in the best sense of that metaphor, living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, responding to the inevitable hardships that guide me on my pathway toward inner contentment and peace. Peace comes, not from the absence of conflict, challenge, or pain, but by accepting and loving our difficult lives. Since there is little I can control or change I try to respond to life with as much courage and grace as I can muster.
Perception is reality and our language shapes how we perceive reality. That's one reason I find one particular translation of the Lord's Prayer from the Aramaic so enlightening and helpful. The startlingly different wording has opened me to faith, life and love in new and profound ways. Thus it is my gift to you as we move into the new year.
“O Birther; Father Mother of the Cosmos. Focus your light within us. Make it useful. Create your reign of unity now—your one desire then acts with ours. As in all light, so in all forms. Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Loose the cords of mistakes binding us as we release the strands we hold of other's guilt. Don't let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back. From you is born all ruling will, the power and the life to do, the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews. Truly, power to these statements. May they be the ground from which all my actions grow, Amen “
Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.