When someone special to you is in their final days on earth, it makes you think about what is important. At the beginning of this year, we spent our finals days with our Pop. Right before he passed away, I wrote these words as I processed my grief. I hope they are an encouragement to you, today.
A few weeks ago, my maternal grandfather (who everyone affectionately calls “Pop”) was moved to the local nursing home in my town for comfort care. His body had completely given out. After all, being born prematurely in 1934 means that he has been a fighter since day 1. He has assured us that he is tired and he is ready to go.
Spending more time with Pop over the last few weeks has given me a lot of time to think as I make the drive from Memphis to Bells and back. I think a lot about his life, about eternal life, and what God is teaching me through these last days we’ll have with our Pop. One word continues to ring in my heart – Identity.
I was recently rewatching a favorite tv show on my iPad while at the gym and I stopped to make a note in my phone at something that was said. The character was in her 50’s and had been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. She was a well known surgeon but was no longer able to operate. She said this during a rare lucid moment with her caretakers as they reminded her of her diagnosis:
“What would you do if the one thing that defines who you are – your entire identity – was taken away?”
I believe that one of the greatest problems I’ve seen in our society is the way that we allow things of this world to define our identity; occupations, relationships, social status, financial stability, etc.
Hear me say – none of these things are bad on their own but it’s when we allow them to define who we are that we will always feel the need to strive for more; more money, the next promotion, more followers, a bigger house, bigger/better vacations, getting married, having a child, having another child, etc.
Can you feel that weight? That weight of worldly expectation telling us to strive for more?
The flip side of that is the way that we look at others with distain and contempt. That person who always feels one step ahead, no matter how hard you try. The one who always seems to catch the break you’ve been praying for. The bitterness you’re feeling isn’t just ungodly but it’s unhealthy and that kind of resentment can make you go crazy.
I’m well versed in this kind of crazy and I’m thankful for the ways that the Lord reveals that sin in my heart and leads me to pursue the eternal … but it’s not always been that easy.
On my 30th Birthday, I opened up my “Write the Word” journal from the Cultivate What Matters shop to my passage of the day. The top of the page said 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Of course I got a good laugh at the reminder that I’m getting older – as if waking up with back pain and a few new laugh lines were not enough!! It also started a change in my heart and has become a constant reminder of what really matters – to keep my eyes focused on the eternal rather than the temporary.
When we place our identity in the hands of temporal things, they can and will be stripped away. When we place our identity in the hands of an Eternal God, we recognize that success and identity is not wrapped up and measured by worldly standards but by the grace of God.
As for me and Pop, we play dominoes and sip Coca Cola at the nursing home while we talk about his life.
I asked about the most fun he’s ever had and he quickly responded with things like riding his favorite horse Jubilee in the Christmas parade or playing Rook with Maw and their best friends on Saturday nights.
We talked about camping at Chickasaw and eating catfish at Reelfoot Lake. We talked about that Christmas when he bought us all a trampoline and it took the whole family to put it together.
In Pop’s last days, these are the things that he wants to talk about and remember.
And I’m afraid that if we’re not careful, we will spend our lives focused on our screens instead of our families and caught up in the striving for success instead of making an eternal impact on the world around us – and we’re gonna miss out on what matters most.
May we take a few lessons from Pop’s slower paced life and savor the time we have with the ones we love.
May our identity be placed in the hands of an Eternal God rather than a temporary world.