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Secrets in the hourglass

by davesandel on May 15th, 2021

Saturday, May 15, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Secrets in the hourglass

Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence through the country, bringing strength to all the disciples.

My friend asked himself, “If I am waiting for heaven here on earth, why shouldn’t I speed along the process?”

He recently got a tattoo on the inside of his wrist, a beautiful hourglass. On one side the pillar that holds it together is broken into what looks like a semi-colon. In fact, it is a semi-colon. The semi-colon represents keeping his options open, rather than ending the “sentence” of his life with a period.

But why? Why should he continue living on earth when heaven awaits?

An hour earlier I saw my friend Kaylee at Farm and Fleet. Kaylee has grown more pregnant over the months, and now she told me she’ll have a C-section on May 25. That is the day before her husband’s birthday. They chose their daughter’s birth-day carefully. That’s completely acceptable. But choosing my death-day is another story, right? Why?

God is king of all the earth.

Here’s why, I think. God tells me how to live (not to die): Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. He also tells me to be thoroughly and constantly grateful and generous. In this way I participate in God’s crusade to overcome evil with good.

That perspective changes the question from a negative, “Why shouldn’t I kill myself?” to a positive, “Why should I live?”

Jesus said, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Suffering and sacrifice mark everyone’s life, and that’s just as true (or more so) for Christians. The pain and grief this involves usually leads at first to surprise, disappointment, fear, complaint, impatience, and confusion. That can morph into, “I’m mad as hell! And I’m not going to take it anymore!” Retributive violence comes next, or if not that, then the slow death of addiction and despair. Ugly. Jesus wants my joy to be complete. That is to say, he wants me to start with joy, and then let God complete it. But joy and anger don’t go well together.

It takes my whole life to work this puzzle.

My friend’s mom gave him three hourglasses for his birthday. They are made of fine glass, and they are very beautiful. He put them on his coffee table beside his Bible and prayer beads. The biggest is a 30 minute glass with black sand. The middle one lasts 15 minutes, and it is filled with gray sand. The third glass holds 5 minutes of white sand.

Of course they mark what the Greeks call “chronos” time. But they also call my friend into “Kairos” time, God’s time, and in those moments he catches a glimpse of the way God sees his life. Is that glimpse enough? Not always. Sometimes the fact that for God a day is like a thousand years breaks his heart.

It breaks his heart, but then what? Like all of us, he encounters despair, and then he has the chance we all have to renounce the period and use his semi-colon. Wait once more for the return of joy, and then for God to make his joy complete.

Why not? Let the baby be born. Live out your life. Let God pick your death-day. Let him do his job and you do yours. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

(Acts 18, Psalm 47, John 16)

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