Life sure seems upside down lately. This dang corona-virus has complicated everyone’s life. I’ve been sheltering at home for one week … I miss my part-time job at our local Community College. Now the government has asked us to shelter in place for the next 30 days. It’s hard to stay focused on living every day to its fullest. But we can … if we focus on the “right stuff.”
Several years ago I attended church with my son Paul, who lives in Wilmington. At the service, an eighty-nine-year -old lady briefly spoke and shared with us her story about her recent hip replacement. The surgery went well but after she went home she experienced some life-threatening complications and ended up having an additional emergency surgery. She said she realized it was serious when they took her to surgery at 4:00 in the morning. She was doing wonderful at the time I heard her speak and looked amazing for her age! She related how a few days after the surgery she was in a lot of pain and quite sick in the middle of one night and all she could think about was that she might be dying. Then as clear as a bell in her quiet room she heard the words in her mind … “Think about living!” From that night on she says that she thinks about living. She made me laugh when telling of the nurses coming into her room to take her for a walk … which she did not want to do and only wanted to yell “NO” … but the words came again … “Think about living!” So with their help, she got out of the bed and walked the hospital halls. When they would return to her room they would ask “Do you want to sit in your chair for a while?” She related she just wanted to get back into bed, but the words came again …“Think about living!” So into the chair she sat! I thought … WOW! If this eighty-nine year old woman can still focus on living, then surely we all can!
Everyone knows that I love using metaphors! Forrest Gump told us that “Life is like a box of chocolates!” I like to think of “Life as a Puzzle.” My life so far has been one of those tricky 1,000 piece puzzles. When I began my puzzle, I came up with a plan on how to put it together and then started on my journey. I began thinking about living. The pieces were all very small and looked alike. So at first, I found myself trying to force certain pieces into the wrong position or place. Even though they appeared as if they should fit, they just weren’t meant for that space. It would be so easy to just pick up a pair of scissors and snip – snip – snip in order to make it fit. Yes, it would be easy that way to solve my puzzle, however then my finished puzzle would definitely not look anything like it is supposed to. It certainly wouldn’t be the beautiful picture it should be.
Like a puzzle, life can sometimes seem like a big mess .. I know everyone agrees since we are all trying to deal with this national crisis. But when it’s finally put together (or the crisis is over), it looks awesome! Just because it becomes a bit hard or difficult to solve at times, we can’t just stop and throw it all away. In order to see the complete picture, we need to stick to it until the puzzle is completely finished! In other words, we can’t stop living because we don’t like pieces of our life that we can’t immediately figure out where they’re supposed to fit into out life’s picture. We need to simply keep an eye on the big picture and continue searching for where each puzzle piece fits. We need to keep going, to keep living, and trust that in the end it will all come together perfectly. We must “think about living!” We must continue to put the pieces together until we see the bigger picture appear before our eyes, until it becomes our life’s masterpiece.
Eleanor Roosevelt said it best “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Back in the 1930’s there was a young man from a very poor village in Ethiopia. He didn’t have much in life except for his God-given ability to run long distances. He could run and run and never seemed to get tired. He didn’t even have shoes to run in, but that didn’t stop him. He ran everywhere all the time. One day someone encouraged him to try out for the Olympics. His family and the people in his village believed in him, so they sold anything they could spare to raise money, including goats and chickens. With that money, he trained, tried out, and made it to the 1936 Olympics in Germany.
There he was at the race, ready for the gun to go off. After running for miles and miles on dusty roads with no shoes, a well laid out track with top-of-the-line running shoes would be no problem. Then, “Pow!”, the race was off. One by one, runners started to fall behind him, and he found himself at the front of the pack. But less than 1/4 the way in, his new shoes proved too much to get used to and he twisted his ankle and fell. Striking his knee on the pavement, he opened up a pretty good gash. But he got back up and kept running. The pain grew, and the blood flowed. His paced slowed until one by one the runners he had passed started to pass him. He ran slower and slower until he couldn’t even see the runners ahead of him anymore. When the crowd thought all the runners had finished, the stadium cleared quickly. One lone reporter who was left behind to pack up his equipment was startled to see this young man hobble into the arena. He watched him with his blood-soaked shoe round the track, and painfully limp across the finish line. Consumed by curiosity, the reported rushed over to the young runner to find out what happened. After hearing his story, he asked him why in the world he didn’t just stop running. He almost chastised him about the permanent damage likely caused to his leg because he wouldn’t stop. The young Ethiopian with his face smeared with sweat and pain looked the reporter in the eyes and said “Sir, my family and my village did not sacrifice so much for me that I might only start this race. They did it so I could finish the race. And that is why I could not stop.”
I could preach a sermon on that illustration alone … But instead I’ll just say this: Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever. Please remember that! Finishing takes faith, and God is with you until the end. Read: 2 Timothy 4:7-8 : “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” Remember the words of Jim Valvano that I stated a few weeks ago … “Never Give Up!”
I will end with my go-to words from Jeffrey R. Holland. I listen to this man’s video on never give up at least every other week. These words give me hope for a better tomorrow when all seems lost. It turns my thinking around to more hope and faith.
“Don’t give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead . You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”
Yep … Life is a puzzle and you really do have the very last piece in your possession! Let’s “Think about Living!” … even though we are all quarantined at home for the next 30 days … let’s find joy in the moment And let’s enjoy our life and time together!
Just saying …