The Fountain of Youth Not Found

Tick, tock.
Tick, tock.

Every day the clock ticks away the minutes. Hours become a day. A day becomes a week. A week becomes a month.

We welcome spring so readily, and summer even more so. But then its fall, then the Holidays are here again and by the time we get back to the real world, we’re wishing for spring again.

Poets and song writers have said it better than I will ever be able to, but on Monday you’re welcoming your child (or in my case, nephews) into the world. Tuesday, its their first day of school. Wednesday they’re in middle school, Thursday they enter high school and by Friday they’re off to college or a career or off to the other side of the country, 3,000 miles away and you’re blessed if they call you on Saturday or Sunday.

It all happened so fast. And while all of that growth was happening to my nephews, I was growing older. Lines on my face accompanied by bags under the eyes and a turkey wattle; my hands – which used to be so lithe and supple – are now gnarled, veiny and wrinkled; my nails which used to grow hard, strong and long, now are so thin they break and split if I look at them wrong. My hair, well aside from turning gray is as thin and fine as it ever has been. With all that going on, I could easily be seduced into world of eternal youth.

How easy it would be – if money were no object – to get the fat sucked out, the wrinkles and bags smoothed out, and certain body parts lifted. Today’s plastic surgeons are artists in the way classic sculptors were – sculpting beautiful bodies out of seemingly inferior material. Don’t like your eye color? You can change it. Lips too thin? Too thick? You can change that, too. Dye the gray away, put on the designer duds, slather on luxurious lotions and creams, and you, too, are young again.

Or are you? Or am I?

One of the crazy things about being human is that we grow old. We don’t live forever no matter how we want to or how hard we try. Yes, you can leave behind a beautiful corpse – but will you leave behind a meaningful, fulfilled live? Or will you leave behind one filled with disappointment, regret and pain? We can try to avoid the subject by pretending our impending death doesn’t exist, but will that make it go away?

It should come as no surprise to anyone –  we’re all going to die. We don’t know when or how, but its going to happen.

But the good news is we have choices. We can choose to avoid death like the plague or we can choose to embrace it and live the life God intended for us. He wants us to accept death. He wants us to realize that death is but the doorway that leads us home to Him. Death is not the end of life. It’s the beginning of our real life – the life that is eternal and pure and free of cares and pains and in His Holy Presence.

If you’re on the Saturday or Sunday of your life, or in the fall or winter of your years, remember that Moses was really old when God called him to rescue Israel. Abraham and Sarah were super old when they finally had their long-awaited-for son, Isaac.  The disciple John was old and exiled to isolation when he wrote the Book of Revelations.

There is still time to live a fulfilled and meaningful life. Let the dream of eternal youth go and focus on what you and God can do together in the little time you have left.

In the words of Auntie Mame, “Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

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Defining faith

Came across a good definition of faith this morning: “Faith is the belief that God is real and that God is good.” (Max Lucado)

When life is at its darkest, when I’m at my lowest point, if I remember God and believe He is real and He loves me – even if I don’t love myself – then the spark of the Divine will relight the small ember of faith in my heart and I am able to start my way back.

Sometimes you have to scratch and claw your way back to God. All sorts of things will block your path – like ego. Ego is a tough one to beat back. Ego says, “I can do this. I can make my life better. I am a good person. I am strong. I will… I can… I am… I want… I need… I … I … I….” Ego is all about self. Self-promotion, self-protection, self-help, self-righteousness. The material world preaches, quite convincingly, that life is all about the ego – what to wear (or, rather, who to wear), who to be seen with, and what to do to get the most re-tweets, likes, or followers.

But is that the answer? Will what is popular in the world heal the hole in my heart? Will the latest self-help guru have the answer for the unending pain I secretly feel? I don’t know about you, but it won’t for me. For me there is but One Answer to the question of my life.

That Answer is God. And although I am discouraged at times, beaten down by circumstances, and often seduced by the beautiful people and things of the material world, God is there, waiting patiently, lovingly, gracefully, for me when I face plant in the dirt. I lift my head just a smidge and without even needing to wipe the dust from my eyes, I know God is there. All I need do is believe He is real and is good and if I but touch the hem of His garment, His healing power of love will flood into my being and lift me up. I don’t even need to ask – His power automatically responds to faith.

God does not force His children to do anything they don’t want to do. He doesn’t force us to believe in Him. If the world stops believing in Him, that won’t change a thing – He will continue to exist as He always has and always will. God responds to His children when they reach out. We – I – must make the first move – even if that first move is a dull ember of hope. His loving power will flow automatically to that ember and start the flame of life burning again.

Attitude issues

What’s that attitude all about?

Quite often throughout the day I field phone calls about customers who complain about coworkers serving them with “bad attitudes.” Of course, they don’t mention that they may have a bad attitude toward my coworkers, but that’s beside this point. I’ve even received complaints via my supervisor about my bad attitude in helping customers. Surprising, right? Me? I’ve always been the picture of friendliness and helpfulness, patience and grace. Yeah, right.

When I was told about how customers were perceiving what I was giving them, I was shocked and hurt, then angry and bitter, then finally, introspective and thoughtful. I ultimately realized they were right. I openly professed to hating my job (I’ve said so many times right here) and how much I dreaded coming in day after day after day to do the same thing over and over, answer the same questions over and over, to perform the same duties over and over and over without variation – unless one of those pesky supervisors decided something needed to be done differently or in a way that I thought was stupid. I had a bad attitude. And it showed in my voice to customers who didn’t know me but were simply asking me to earn my paycheck. I did what they wanted but with a hefty helping of bitterness and resentment.

A number of months and a good amount of thought and prayer later, I don’t love my job, but I don’t hate it either. I’m coming to terms with where I am at this moment in my life and in the words of some unknown-to-me sage, I’m learning to “bloom where I’m planted.”

Which reminds me, in a round-about way, of the story of Martha and Mary. Martha invited Jesus over to her place for dinner; when He arrived, He had His whole entourage with Him. Suddenly, Martha, who had probably been planning on just a few for supper was suddenly faced with dozens of hungry mouths to feed. While Jesus relaxed in the other room and talked with His disciples, Martha’s sister Mary sat at His feet, enraptured by His words. Martha, on the other hand, was busy in the kitchen, growing more angry by the minute until she couldn’t stand it any longer. She went to Jesus and demanded He tell Mary to get off her rear and help her prepare the food. And Jesus being Who He Is simply tells her, “Martha, you are worried about many things. You need to take a chill pill and leave Mary alone. She has chosen to serve me with love and attention, while you are serving me with bitterness and anger.” (Okay, so He didn’t say exactly that, but you get the idea.)

Long story short, Martha got angry with God because she was doing what she was supposed to be doing, but she was doing it with her eyes focused on herself. She was working hard, thinking she was serving God, but in her heart, she was serving herself. Mary, on the other hand, was focused on God.

When I take my eyes off of God and put them on myself, the ever-present seed of bitterness and frustration starts to grow. I get frustrated with customers, and that frustration creeps out of my heart, into my voice and over the phone into the customer’s ears.

But God is merciful and loving and tells me, “Sabina, you are worried about many things. You need to take a chill pill, stop worrying about what’s going on in your life and stop questioning why you are where you are. You need to put your eyes back on Me. Focus on Me. Trust Me. Listen to My words.”

And when I heed the wisdom of the God who loves and cares for me; when I take my eyes off me and put them back on God; when I focus on His love and care, my attitude changes and I am able to make it through my day with friendliness, helpfulness, patience, and compassion.

The chill pill need not be a bitter one to swallow.

Read the Biblical story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42.