Saturday, March 15, 2014

In the midst of life we are in death

MAN, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord. 

 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”

For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:

in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.
(Ps 90: 1-6) 
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
(1 Jn 2:17)
On weekends, or weekdays after school, I sometimes go back to my old high school, where I walk around the campus. It's a good place to walk and pray. Quiet enough and spacious enough to afford enough privacy and seclusion for prayer. At the same time, it's not necessary safe going somewhere that's too secluded. So this is a good compromise.
With the return of sunny spring weather and longer daylight hours, the football field is sometimes a hive of activity, even though this is about two hours after school is out. But for some students, this is when the fun really begins.
Walking by the field, there's sometimes one or maybe two practice soccer matches in play. The gymnastics and track-and-field teams are also utilizing the area. 
It's a bustling community event. Almost like an extended family. Of course, except for coaches, it's mostly teenagers. All that youthful exuberance. All that joie de vivre. 
On the stands is a smattering of students, parents, younger siblings, girlfriends. 
Yet, at several levels, this is deceptive. The same field that's brimming over with social life a few hours earlier will be deserted just a few hours later, even before sundown. From a crowded field to a vacant lot in just a few hours. Their togetherness is very ephemeral. 
That's in part because almost everyone is unrelated to everyone else. After practice they separate. They all fan out to different homes. They're not really a part of each other. They all belong to different families. 
Some students dread high school. They can't wait to graduate. For others, this is the high point of their life. All that company and camaraderie. For them, life after high school is a tremendous let-down. 
A few teammates will remain lifelong friends. But many will become preoccupied with work and family. Some will have to move to other towns or out of state to find work. 
At this age, in their youthful prime, with their whole life ahead of them, they have so much to live for. So much to look forward to. Or so it seems. Some will squander the gift of life. Take it for granted. Live a thankless life. End badly. 
In addition, school reflects a rapid rate of turnover. There's continuity, but it's a cyclical continuity. Every year there's a new incoming class. Every three years, a complete turnover in the student body.
The scene you see on the football field this season repeats itself every spring. Yet the continuity is deceptive. Every year, roughly a third of the students who were on the field a year before are long gone. Roughly a third of the students are new. The play remains the same, but the players keep changing.
In a sense, the field is full of ghosts. Layers upon layers of previous seasons. All the teams that came and went. Forgotten by the younger generation. The present superimposed on the past. The present fading into the past. The same field filled with different students every three years, going back and back. In some cases, today's students are sons of fathers who used to be right where they are, doing just what they are doing now. 
Although it takes longer, eventually there's a complete turnover in the faculty. None of the teachers I had when I was there is still there. I'm already older (by 10 or 20 years) than some of my teachers were. Just about all of them have retired. Some have died. Some are lingering in nursing homes. A living death.
The world we knew is passing away. Even in the midst of life we are in death. Without the superglue of God's grace to keep us together, the acid of death dissolves every bond of devotion and affection. 


  1. ... the superglue of God's grace ...

    This seems like an inapt metaphor -- "superglue" hardens and its function is essentially inactive. I understand grace more in the active sense of Colossians 1:17: "in Him all things hold together".

    Still, it's a tremendous reminder for our day.

    1. It's an apt metaphor for what I intend to illustrate, which is the indissoluble bond between Christian loved ones. Even though death temporarily separates us, we are ultimately inseparable.

  2. Well, a metaphor is a metaphor. A figure of speech. There's a point at which we may run the risk of over analysis, I think.