What is your life? It is the age-old existential question. Now, I’m not asking you exactly why you exist or how you came to be, but what is your life? Where do you fit in to what is occurring in time, your town, your family, your church or other organization? I would think the answer is often a head scratcher. Do you understand how you fit in? I assure you that you do fit in. You do matter. You and I are a part of something larger than the collective us.
We may grasp how we fit in in certain seasons of life when we have a societal label such as parent, student, supervisor, or trainee. We generally know where we are on the food chain of life, hierarchies of organizations or peer groups. Sometimes like the famous preacher-king1, we lament:
“All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes…”2
Sometimes we feel a bit lost as we pass through life stages: the high school graduate, empty-nester, new married couples, those singled by widowhood or divorce, those abandoned by parents or orphaned, parents bereaved of a child, the new employee, displaced workers and retirees. Maybe COVID has impacted your world so that things are very much upside down. We might wonder, who am I now and will I make a difference? Does anyone care? What is my life?
Where do we fit into the world? As I wait in the drive thru line for my iced Starbucks drink I listen to political squabbles over the most recent impeachment trial. I think of how my children are beginning to learn they can petition elected leaders via letters, emails and within the community. Most of the world is not as fortunate. As a child, my mother would remind me during dinner that other children in the world were hungry. And while I would have happily shared my fish sticks and tomato soup with them3, for me it was the beginning of perspective, a worldview outside of my own. Where did I fit in?
Sometimes we feel as if life shook us up and dropkicked us into some random place that we definitely do not want to be. I was a child who had experienced three parental divorces. For most of my life I felt very disconnected. I bounced all over the ping-pong table of life. Finding meaning in the “What is my life” question has definitely taken a conscious effort, and for me, has seemed to manifest in categories of the “Big Picture”, “Life on Zoom”, and the spiritual.
As I mentioned, my parental divorces left me feeling quite disconnected from a sense of family and belonging. To make matters worse, most of the family had been spread across the U.S., had died, or became estranged; and much of the family history had went unspoken, purposely or via drifting time. In regards to the “Big Picture,” I found that genealogical research added some much needed perspective. One family line of mine was able to be traced back to the 1600s. I found that in at least 250 years, my parents’ divorce appeared to be the first. To turn the prism another way, I came from a family line that valued family and marriage, with couples that had persevered long enough to fulfil the vows, “’til death do us part” for a really long time!4 This is not passing judgement on my parents. I believe with better social support and marriage counseling things could have been preserved. My parents held both affection for and painful memories of one another until my father’s death. Both professed to be deeply hurt by the divorce and wished that things would have happened differently. Looking at the family line, and knowing details about ancestors from the most recent generations, I saw how personal decisions had a 100-year impact or longer on the collective family, for good or bad. What they did mattered. That means what I choose to do matters, not for the decision at hand, but for generations.
“Life on Zoom” is not one long Zoom meeting brought to me by COVID, but how I view life in the day-to-day. How do I maintain family relationships, school logistics and health and wellness all while social distancing, monitoring for COVID symptoms, going for rapid testing (again!) and assisting my children to be appropriately socially adjusted, to not only life in quarantine, but life, a life with meaning and purpose? Obviously, decisions about marriage, schooling, jobs, unplanned illnesses, expectations for aging, and care of children are all a part of this. You know. You live this stuff too. Decisions here effect our waking moments, not to mention the quality of our sleep! To quote a wise man, “The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments. We live most of our existence in these mundane, everyday moments.”5 Or to quote these well-known lyrics:
“Our lives are made,
In these small hours
These little wonders
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away
But these small hours
These small hours still remain.”6
Lastly and most importantly is the spiritual. Despite any given view on God, most people believe themselves to be spiritual.7 As many people did in the early 1970s, I grew up in the church.8 Despite my family turmoil, foolish choices and personal pain, I learned to love and trust God just as the Psalmist professed, ‘I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”9 My times are in your hand.’ I also found wonderful comfort reading Arthur W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God10, and for the history buffs and those who don’t like to read books there is a gem I discovered in Charles Spurgeon’s “My Times are in Thy Hand”.11,12, Jesus tells us in the Bible, that he is the only way to God and is the real source of truth and is the real life,13 and that no one comes to God the Father except by believing and trusting in the finished work and righteousness of Jesus the Christ.14 Jesus came that we would have life and have it more abundantly.15
I imagine any further genealogical study will find both good and disappointing things about ancestors. After all, the Bible does tell us that no one is perfect.16 However, there is one Family Tree that is timeless.17 It will never be tarnished by my or your inclusion.18,19, In this Family Tree there will never be shame in calling you brother, daughter, sister or son. In this Family Tree you are welcome, invited, cherished and loved because of Jesus. Listen to what the apostle John explains to us…
“But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name—who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].”20
So I ask you again, what is your life?
1 King Solomon
2 Ecclesiastes 1:1-4a. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Crossway Bibles. Accessed on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes%201&version=ESV
3I fed them to my little sister when my mother wasn’t looking.
4Interestingly enough, this branch of the family tree was all largely Quakers, Episcopalians and Methodists
5Tripp, P. Making 2019 Commitments. Wednesday Word: A Weekly Devotional with Paul Tripp. Paul Tripp Ministries, Inc. Accessed February 9, 2021 from: https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/making-2019-commitments
6Thomas, R. Little Wonders. Musicmatch. Accessed February 9, 2021 from: https://www.google.com/search?q=These+little+wonder+lyrics&rlz=1C1ASUT_enUS642US646&oq=These+little+wonder+lyrics&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i22i30l3.5903j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
7Lipka, M & Gecewicz, C. More Americans now say they’re spiritual but not religious. Fact Tank: News in the Numbers. Pew Research Center. Published online September 6, 2017. Accessed on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/06/more-americans-now-say-theyre-spiritual-but-not-religious/
8U.S. church membership was at 68% in the 1970s. Jones, J. U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades. Gallup News. Published online April 18, 2019. Accessed February 9, 2021 from: https://news.gallup.com/poll/248837/church-membership-down-sharply-past-two-decades.aspx#:~:text=U.S.%20church%20membership%20was%2070,the%201970s%20through%20the%201990s.
9Psalm 31:14-15. Bible Gateway. English Standard Version. Accessed on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+31&version=ESV
10Pink, A.W. (1984, first published 1917). The Sovereignty of God. Baker Books. 0801070880 (ISBN13: 9780801070884)
11Spurgeon, C.H. “My Times are in Thy Hand.” A Sermon (No. 2205). Delivered on Lord’s-Day Morning, May 17th, 1891 At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. The Blue Letter Bible Ministry. Accessed on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeon_charles/sermons/2205.cfm
12Who else reading this is thankful for modern technology to access a sermon from 1891?
13John 14:6. Amplified Bible. Bible Gateway. Accessed on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14%3A6&version=AMP
1719 Bible Verses about Christ Reigning Forever. Knowing Jesus. Knowing-Jesus.com. Accessed February 9, 2021 from: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Christ-Reigning-Forever
19Piper, J. Faith and the Imputation of Righteousness. Series: Romans: The Greatest Letter Ever Written. Desiring God. Published online October 17, 1999. Access on February 9, 2021 from: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/faith-and-the-imputation-of-righteousness
20John 1:12-13. Amplified Bible. Bible Gateway. Accessed February 9, 2021 from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1%3A12-13&version=AMP