October 13, 2014

Any Ordinary Monday

It is the ordinary days that are the most terrifying because they dawn so innocently. It was just an ordinary Monday. A common Monday in September. It came as all Mondays do, with the morning sun. It was, just like every other Monday, slow to start, grumpy, and ready to fight. We woke up, got dressed, had breakfast and thought nothing of it. Just a Monday among Mondays. That is why the news shook us to the core. Because nothing bad is supposed to happen on a plain old Monday in September.

But it did.

The call came and we dropped everything. Books were left open and scattered on the table. Breakfast dishes were left dirty on the kitchen sink. And when we returned, only to pack for a long and painful week, we knew that such ordinary Monday had turned our world upside down in ways ordinary Mondays should not have the right to do.

It has taken me more than a month to collect my thoughts enough to make any sense of them. I have lived a month of ordinary days that have me scared to the bone. Every unexpected phone call has made me pause, like the weeks after a wreck find you flinching each time a car approaches. 

My life has not been filled with unexpectedly painful phone calls. I've had two so far, and both have shifted me and wrecked me differently. The first one, thirteen years ago, put me in a dark spiritual hole out of which I crawled back tender and more aware of God's presence in the midst of tragedy.

This one has gotten me thinking about numbering my days. "Teach us the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom," says the psalmist (Psalm 90:12). I had underlined this in my Bible at some point and I revisited it this month with new eyes.

That Monday in September jolted me awake to the brevity of life. "Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10). My father-in-law was young by our world's standards, and healthy. Nobody expected him to go so quickly and so abruptly. It sounds trite until it is true: nobody knows the moment time simply runs out. How does God take that knowledge and transform it into wisdom for living well?

I've heard people say that you should live each day as if it was your last. I am too literal and I find this too impractical. I would like to spend my last day in Ecuador, surrounded by my whole family. But that is not a possibility every day. So I've been meditating on what this verse means to me in my everyday life.

Over the last month Matt and I have spent time thinking back on all the "lasts." The last time we saw him. The last time we talked to him on the phone. The last time he helped us fix something in our house. The last anniversary he celebrated with his wife. The last thing he did, the last thing he said, the last minute of his life.

My kids and he had a tradition. He would record Tom and Jerry for them for weeks and when they came to see him, they would sit together and watch episode after episode. The last time we saw him, about a week before he died, Matt and I said no to a Tom and Jerry marathon for reasons neither one of us understands now. Of course, we didn't know it would be the last opportunity but it is painful nonetheless.

Wisdom, for me, has come in taking to heart the concept of "last." I don't want to live in fear or morbidly reminding myself that every moment can be the last. But I do want to live wisely remembering the brevity of life. 

My father-in-law's last words to his wife were "I love you." He may not have known he would be with Jesus not five minutes later, but that was the type of person he was. He never missed an opportunity to say "I love you," to encourage you, to remind you that you were special to him. He counted his days wisely and made the most of them.

And when he died, the hole he left in the world, the depth of pain that was felt, and the crowds of people who came to honor him are a testament of the wisdom with which he lived. Even in his death he left me a legacy of knowledge and love. He taught me to open my eyes to what it means, in my life, to number my days and live each one fully.

It means saying "yes" more often. It means not letting Matt leave without a kiss every morning. It means not going to bed angry with each other. It means not waiting until later to apologize to my children. It means leaving the mess in the kitchen alone in exchange for a few minutes of reading with Isabel. It means taking a moment to "ooh" and "ahh" over Noah's latest Lego creation when I have a mound of papers to grade. It means ending each conversation with "I love you."

And it means so much more. But above all it means cherishing those who are still here. Every day. Every moment. 

Because we don't know when an ordinary Monday will come to shatter our world. 

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