Every so often, I am struck by how fragile our lives can be.
So many of life’s difficult times begin with a startling moment that changes everything. With sometimes little warning, the exquisitely intricate facets of daily living can disappear suddenly. Lines that have bound us tightly to others fray and snap. Normal health dissipates in the face of sobering test results. An accident snuffs out normal living. A single body organ falters or fails, and other bodily systems break down in quick succession. One piece of sudden sad news tips our spirits towards depression. Cascades of economic hardship come our way, unexpectedly overwhelming our financial stability. Without warning, relationships cemented into our souls crack into brittle pieces because of the anxieties, fears and angers of these times. Death stalks stealthily—and then quickly takes away—those we love dearly.
The longer I live—and I’m blessed with many years now—the more I am aware that my own life is precious because it could be easily broken, damaged or destroyed. But this sense of fragility is especially strong as I look around. I worry about families whose well-being is threatened by injustice of any kind. About those whose occupations put them in danger at any moment. About parents whose adult children seem to be adrift. About leaders whose faithful service remains unappreciated and unrewarded.
As I put these words onto this screen this night, I’m struck by the fragility of life almost everywhere. Recent events in the Middle East have pointed out how quickly the fabric of international relations can get ripped to shreds. Innocent lives are snuffed out by rockets, bombs, gunfire, IED’s. Refugees slip to death in the frigid waters of their hope-routes. Parents of soldiers mourn wounds that are visible and invisible.
Events in the natural world also remind me how life is fragile. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms—even long-dormant volcanoes—ruin homes and livelihoods, creating new cohorts of migrants. For these people, unknown schedules, unlivable neighborhoods and unacceptable options replace the normal ebb and flow of their existence.
Seemingly sturdy cultural institutions can also be frail: The bulwarks of civilization that hold our nation together seem to be breaking into pieces—formerly sturdy laws and social conventions quietly destroyed, one at a time. Leaders abruptly capitulating to their worst instincts—self-preservation as an example. Civility and respect shriveling. Trust evaporating.
There is more to this matter, though.
These evidences of life’s vulnerabilities do not lead me to despair or defeat. I live among so many good-hearted people—including you who read these words—whose vulnerabilities would seem to be reason enough to give in or give up. But they don’t. You don’t. I don’t.
As crumbly or unstable our circumstances, together we remain hopeful and courageous. We assess the thin, broken lines of our misfortunes and take up the work that will repair breaches, restore normality, patch wounds and rebuild our lives.
Many of us are older adults, and we inspire each other greatly. Too old to be cock-eyed optimists or Pollyanna’s, we nevertheless persist in restoration and renewal. Even though life may be tenuous, we gather around ourselves our faith in God’s grace and providence. We get to work at what may take the rest of our lives to reestablish or renovate. And we extend that gritty spirit towards others around us.
While I am certain that life can be short and precarious, in spite of that certainty a greater one remains: Our God-given lives are worth living, worth celebrating.