Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
April 29, 2001
Life is a puzzle, a constant mix of meaning and mystery, delight and distress, bitter and sweet. Philosophers thrive in their endless drive to explain the enigma of our human existence. Sooner or later every person ponders the meaning of it all.
Every day we live in the swirl of contrasting realities. Some are gladdening, others maddening. We are cheered by the joyful enthusiasm of a beautiful little girl who is full of life. We are saddened by the despondency of an aging woman who can think of nothing to do but sit on the side of her bed and stare out of the window.
One afternoon we enjoy the fun of a community ballpark, gulping down a hot dog and yelling with delight as an eight-year-old son slides over home plate to win the game for our team. Does it get any better than having your own son become the hero by scoring the winning run?
The next day we are at the hospital, in a small conference room, cold and numb with fear as a grim-faced doctor breaks the news that your two-year-old son has leukemia, for which there is no cure. When we ask how long our boy has to live, he says "from two months to two years." Soon we are outside the hospital, staring into an uncaring sky, unable to keep the tears back, and wanting somebody, anybody, to tell us why this is happening.
On a lovely Saturday in May the family gathers under the large oaks for a picnic. Lovely weather, lots of children, plenty of food and laughter -- all we needed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our son Mark and his sweet wife, Sherri. It was one of those wonderful days that puts a smile on your face as you drop off to sleep, weary but content within. Five years later, standing under the tall oaks, you reflect soberly on the pain and loss your family has suffered in that short span of time. Your wife’s sister and your own sister, the youngest of three, are gone, both victims of cancer. Your wife’s mother finally escaped from the nursing home, dying there at age 98, unaware that her oldest daughter had preceded her in death. Your own parents are also dead now, having lived to the ripe old ages of 93 and 95.
That is how life is. There are ball games and picnics, laughter and good times; and there are heartaches and funerals, sorrows and farewells. In the mix there are also days filled with the joy of achievement and success, and days clouded with anger, broken relationships, disappointments, and defeats.
The challenge that faces us all is to find a way to live to the fullest in the midst of all that life brings. That is not easy but it is possible. A positive spirit is required, along with a willingness to admit our need of the help of others and to offer our help to those with whom we live.
Somehow we must find a way to embrace life as it is, with all its joys and sorrows, and even in the midst of tears give thanks for all that is good, true, pure, and noble. It may be that gratitude is the key to fullness of joy. If we can be thankful for all that is, and accept the challenge to make the most of whatever comes our way, then something mysterious happens. We discover the presence of the unseen hand of One who comes alongside us to love us and to help us find our way.
Strangely, however, that never seems to happen until we are on our knees, willing at last to admit that we need help from outside ourselves. But then, wonder of wonders, we find ourselves able somehow to cope with the enigma of life. Only then can we find the strength to embrace life as it is and do all we can to make it better, for ourselves and others.