It’s springtime in Tallahassee and I’m just in from my roof. With all the pollen we have here and the forest that is our yard, our roof collects enough debris to look like a woodland trail. This is not good for the shingles, I’m told. What to do? Burn it off? Pray for strong winds? Or how about getting the ladder out, climbing up there, and taking on the challenge of doing what’s hard because doing so is an essential part of what life is about?
Doing something needed in this world is often as hard as saying something needed (see last week’s blog). For me, it’s easy to leave things undone these days because everyone “understands.” I have cancer all over my bones (insert sad trombone sound here), so I get a pass. I don’t have to do the hard stuff anymore.
Well, can I tell you something? I DON’T WANT A PASS! I want to fight and claw my way to the finish line in this race.
So for the first time in almost two years, I got on my roof. The job is only half done, but I feel invigorated and alive tonight, having risen to the challenge (and managing not to have fallen off). Man against nature, and all that. Plus, I’m very much looking forward to once again judging my neighbors for their messy roofs. I mean, if I can clean mine, what’s up with them?
How easy it is to do nothing hard or of value in this world. Passivity is the deadly desire to let life pass you by without any real participation required on your part. Instead of us stepping into our lives and the challenges we are confronted with, we say no words, take no risks, and make no difference. I have a friend who believes that most people sleepwalk through life. Even if only some do, how very sad.
When I die, I want three things to be true of me:
- I want my investment in the lives of others to have made life better for them in some meaningful way.
- I want to have confronted my fears for so long that they now cower when they hear the footsteps of my courage coming to hunt them down.
- I want my heart to be fully alive, even as my body is closing up shop.
Have you heard the story of the guy who had the recurring dream about being chased by a lion? It happened repeatedly, terrifying him night after night. Finally he stopped, turned, and confronted the lion. “Why are you chasing me?” he asked. The lion responded, “I am your courage and strength. Why are you running from me?”
Cancer is an insidious disease that can destroy your body and your heart. While it fills your body with rogue cells, it can also rob your heart of its calling in life – to do the hard things – to intentionally be present in this world because our lives here matter so very much. But this requires that we stop running and, instead, find the courage and strength to do what’s needed, until the day when we can do it no longer.
Betsy has a new personal goal of late – to do the Spaghetti 100 bike race this coming fall (piece of cake – the same race I blew my knee out on a few years back). To do this, she has to step into an intentional life of training for the next 6 months. No guts, no glory, as they say. I am so very proud of her for tackling something hard over the long haul for her personal betterment.
Me? I just want to keep our roof clean. More broadly, I want to finish my race, having been intentional and faithful to the very end. And lest you think this is just about me because I have terminal cancer, think again. We are all in this race together, just at different places. To run it well, we have to continually do the hard work of stepping into our lives and callings, instead of passively watching our days slip by before our eyes.
As people made in the image of God, this is our great privilege and our great responsibility.