Phillipians 4:11 …I have learned, regardless of my circumstances, to be content.
To read about a person who faces tragic circumstances, who lives through unimaginable pain and suffering and who chooses to live a life of dignity with honor is inspiring. To know one though… that is another thing entirely. To read their story of courage is to wonder at it. It see it lived before you, humbles you to your very soul. An hour in their presence burns into your brain the sermon of a thousand Sundays.
I spent yesterday with one of these people. Polio has stripped her of her ability to care for herself. It has stolen her ability to do the things she loves, to create the masterpieces she has produced her whole life long. For she is an artist. Using color, texture, shape and textile she has created garments only seen to a poor country girl like me in photographs of galas, inaugurations. But those hands are stilled now. Stripped of their artistry.
I hear her speak of how painful it is to see the tools of her art, the treasures she has collected, used and loved now being passed on to people to whom they are meaningless. As her caregiver bags them up and donates them to charity, she knows she is saying goodbye to more than metal, glass and plastic. She is saying goodbye to life. The life she had. The life she loved.
Stripped of the useful and valuable things of life, she is left with the priceless ones. And they aren’t things. The faithful husband of over 50 years, who daily cares for her every need. Every need. The food, the personal hygiene, the mental and emotional companionship and the spiritual encouragement. All given by him, to her, willingly. Such love, such devotion. It is the stuff that fairy tales forget to write of. It is the stuff seldom sung about, seldom glorified in media, seldom splashed on the big screen. Because it is so seldom seen. And like the rarest of rare treasures, it is priceless. A man who chooses to love her through better, and now worse. In health and now in sickness. A man who chooses to keep his vows... anyway.
She is left with the memories of a life lived with honor, with dignity. A woman faithful to her house of worship, when navigating the car, the doorways, ramps, stairs and narrow aisles in her wheelchair made it difficult. But she built a monument to faithfulness….anyway She is left with the memories of the choices she made to not be bitter. Afflicted with polio just before the vaccine came out, such bitter timing. Yet she built a life of influence and productivity and happiness. From her chair. In her pain. With her limitations. Anyway.
I am humbled, returning to my busy, rushed, sometimes chaotic life. Humbled to be reminded that this too shall pass. The things that seem so important, so RIGHT NOW, are in fact only right now. One day, I too will lay down the things in my life. And as I say goodbye to the stuff that I let define me, as I am stripped of the tools that I have used, the computer, the camera, the sewing machine, the oven, I will see what I really am. Me. Minus the stuff. Stripped to the bones, the support, of my life.
I am left to ponder…when I stand there, naked to my soul, what will my soul look like? What will the choices I am making be revealed then as? Wood, hay, stubble? Will there be anything of real substance left? Will I have let the bitter wrongs done me by life, by others, define me? Or did I build a life of dignity, honor, meaning… anyway.
Where are you today? What circumstance has unfairly limited you? Lets face it, we do not all have the same IQ levels. We do not all have the same physical abilities. We do not all have the same giftedness. We are, all of us, limited in some way. What choices are YOU making? Do you blame life, God, others? Or do you face life with determination and build a moment to faithfulness, honor and dignity ANYWAY.
Yes, life isn’t fair. Bad stuff happens. Tragedy strikes. But press on anyway. Live a life worth living, worth knowing, worth sharing. Leave behind that most precious legacy of all, an example worth following. From your wheelchair, from your divorce, from your unmet expectation, from your disappointment, from your pain. Glorify God in your moral body… anyway.