The Gift of Today!
There were a few days just before Christmas when I experienced a period of melancholy. I know from my experience and the experience of others that this is not at all uncommon around holidays for a whole complexity of reasons, and if you add to those reasons the effects of Covid concerns, lockdowns, isolation, fears, and changes in lifestyle norms etc, etc—then you have a whole host of forces that can impact the mood of any individual. I am not writing to simplify the complex or in any way to anesthetize or numb the hurt that is probably part of all of us. However, a thought came to me rather simply but profoundly in the midst of a particular melancholy day. And that thought was “Today is an unlived gift—a fresh piece of canvas—a day never lived—therefore make of this day some beautiful artwork.” In other words live within the awareness and mindfulness of this moment, this minute, this hour, this day, in all its fullness.
This is otherwise known as accepting life—the life that we are neck deep in. The life that is only mine to live. Complete with summers and winters, gray skies, tears, and moments of exuberant celebration. I didn’t request this life, but I was given it. No one else has my version of it. I will never bump into myself on the sidewalk. I will never meet anyone else with my exact lineage, loves, longings or life experiences. No one else can live my life—it is the Canvas I have been given to paint on. It’s all a gift—whether given 50 years or 100. I did nothing to earn or deserve or merit the gift, and oh how these days can race by. If I am not careful, my life could pass by without really appreciating and living fully within it. I could get so caught up in survival—that I lose the perspective of it being a Gift to be unpacked with gratitude, celebration, and humility.
Now I realize some people do not receive their lives as a gift to be unwrapped one day at a time. Many do not bother with such thoughts. They find themselves grinding through surviving storm after storm without really looking up—or looking out—or for that matter looking within. They live, and die, and barely ask why! But I choose a long time ago to not be among them—though from time to time I slip-up and lose my perspective. When I come to God, often with an empty or at least half full cup—I come with a desire to not only live well—but to live a life that matters. I want to live in such a way that makes the world glad I did.
I think of the story I have often read at funeral and memorial services called “The Dash. “
THE DASH a poem by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
The living of my Dash, the seeking to live well has brought me to embrace again and again the great words of Ephesians 2:10 “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” On those days where life has me by the veritable tail—and melancholy sets in—I often have conversation with the emotion. I remind myself that I am given a choice—an opportunity to receive each day as an unmerited undeserved gift that I never did a thing to deserve. And that I can choose to live fully, mindfully and gratefully in it—even choosing to make a difference in the world around me. I can choose to Rock this world with hope, love, and a God centered perspective. I am after all created by a great God and can do great works through His amazing grace! And when speaking these truths to my heart quite often the melancholy will lift.
He told me to tell you!
Pastor Robert Zimmerman