I tried to write this blog post yesterday, but I decided after the first twenty minutes you didn’t deserve to read the drivel that was appearing on the screen. It just wasn’t happening yesterday. Then, other things happened yesterday, and maybe, there was a reason I never finished.
Every once in a while, someone says something that startles you with its outside-of-the-box clarity and dead on accuracy. A statement that makes you go all Homer Simpson “D’oh” and realize, “That should have been my brain’s default mode.” But somehow, it never is. I had that moment yesterday morning reading the Psalms.
In Psalm 39, the writer watches “the ungodly” and all they do and say. He promises himself, and presumedly God, that he will not jump in with a harsh word or a stupid comeback, no matter how bad it gets. Tough to do. When surrounded by idiot behavior, most of us are seriously prompted to at least a raised eyebrow and more likely a holier-than-thou judgment call.
Rarely do we hold our tongues. More often, we relate better to the next words of the psalm.
“The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words.” Finally. Here it comes. The retribution. The put down. The “Wow am I glad I’m better than that” passive aggressive throwdown, or even the “God’s gonna get you” point play. He’s going to let those sinners have it.
And then comes the next line. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me my days are numbered. At best, each of us is but a breath.” What??? No, “Lord, remind them of how awful they are.” No, “Lord, remind them they’re going to get theirs.” No, Lord, thank you I’m not nearly that bad.”
No. Instead, he haunts us with the question, “Lord, how am I doing?”
Watching other people mess up did not give him leeway to blast them but caused him to look inward and say, “Hey, God, am I doing the best job I could be doing with what I have?”
Yesterday, we were surrounded by actions far more serious than stupid–our surroundings were just plain evil. We are reminded now, on a seemingly regular basis, that “ungodliness” is not the old-fashioned term we’ve come to regard it as. If the actions of those who take life pointlessly cannot be described as against all that is God’s nature, nothing can. Ungodliness is alive and devastatingly robust, despite, and certainly because of, our disbelief in it.
Yet the challenge I received prior to yesterday’s events remains true. Perhaps the best response of those who wish for better should be to examine our own lives. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.” What am I doing with that time? Specifically, am I creating a life story that will be remembered far longer, and better, than the ones laid down by those who choose evil?
Marathon bombers, school shooters–their names cover our headlines. But for how long? What will we remember about them? How long will we care? In the face of that, what do I want to leave from my brief days here circling the sun? What can I do today to move one step toward making that quick breath here a deep one, that sliver of space gorgeous?
Three months after 9/11, I watched what became my favorite movie ever, and I heard one of my favorite book/movie quotes ever. The words were surreally appropriate then, as now.
Frodo: “I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
That’s all we have to decide, and it’s all that we can decide. Every day we don’t decide is a part of that breath, wasted.