I’m writing to you today from my grandmother’s bedside at the hospital. It’s a place I find myself often, not with grandma always but as a part of my Christian walk. I am privileged to be with families during some of their most difficult times to the lighter moments, from major surgery to a quick stop in the hospital for a minor illness.
Almost always, during even the small times, hospital bedsides always have a way of bringing into sharp focus the things that are important. Before, when life is going on as normal, life is busy and moving quickly on the rat wheel, it’s so easy to get caught up in meaningless arguments that go nowhere, harsh words that to easily come out over things that don’t matter, walls built between people and kindness is hard to find. We fall into a casual carelessness with the hearts and hands of the people in our life. Of course they will always be there is our attitude, there will always be tomorrow to make up and be better.
But then, most of the time but not always, the hospital bedside moment arrives when it’s not expected, small arguments and harsh words take a back seat to the importance of that moment. Nothing else really matters at that moment except taking care of the person that we realized once again with a start we really would not like to live without. We think about the times we were idiots and said things we shouldn’t or moments when we were casually indifferent about the hearts and hands of the people we love. We think we will do things differently, care for them better, be more attentive and focused on what matters most. And so the cycle goes from crisis to normality to crisis again. Promise and complacency then promise again.
But this isn’t the kind of cycle that we have to subject ourselves too. Wouldn’t it be nice if we learned how to focus on what was important during the normal times as well as the times of crisis? To be able to look back at the moments before the crisis not with regret but with a sense of “we’ve honestly done the best we could with the time we had.” Live our days with a sense of integrity and completeness.
The past can drive us to this desire, seeing our past mistakes in how we cared for others and wanting to do better. But all too often this resolve has the same feel to it of the resolve declared after doing what we shouldn’t but finding our resolve breaking and doing it all over again. No, this has to be a significantly different kind of choice one that is made not in the fear or anxiety of the hospital bedside but in the duldrums of daily life and routine.
Here is a quote from one of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis.
“Love… is a deep unity, maintained by the will, and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God.”
C.S. meant this in the context of marriage but it certainly pertains to all of our relationships. Break this thought down for a minute.
Love- to show and give and receive love comes from…
A deep unity- how is a unity formed but by our choices, common experiences, deliberate choices of reaching out and holding on, all of these that are…
Maintained by the will- notice how this doesn’t talk about how we feel. Love is a choice, not a feeling of warm fuzzies or a desperate plea to do better because we feel guilty. Love is a choice, a decision that is made, for and with these people in my life. A choice…
That is deliberately strengthened by habit- love is something we do. It takes conscious choices and deliberate decisions. It might mean being at home and backing off from extra work, or playing with the kids instead of watching the game or going out of your way to be at your parent’s house for dinner even when you’re beat. But like any habit, it gets easier the more you make these kinds of choices. But ultimately your foundation for this kind of life is…
Reinforced by the grace of God- As Christians we live in a life of grace, grace that was shown to us when we didn’t deserve it and grace given when and where we need it most, not only at the bedside but during every moment of our life, now and eternally.
This is the kind of life that can look itself in the eye at night and breathe a little bit easier knowing that before the bedside moments come the choices were already made to love well and in the end no matter how things turn out you can say “I did what was right, I did what I should.” This kind of life will not make you more money, get you a nicer home or even be the easiest kind of life. But it will be the kind of life that is lived well, lived with integrity and filled with love.
This is the same kind of sharp focus on what matters most that the season of Lent invites us into. During these 40 days of Lenten observance we are invited to remember what matters most in our life: the grace of God and a Christian life well lived; because it is so stinkin’ easy to fall into the same bedside mentality when it comes to God. How often we show up on the holidays alone or during times of crisis, we make promises of a more faithful more devout life, just to fall back into old patterns of apathy forgetting what matters most. Then at the end of the day, when the hospital bedside comes without warning, like it always does, we look back with regret instead of a sense of peace.
Now is the best time to start. Before you are in the chair next to the bedside or before you are in the bed yourself while others watch on, it is a very good time right now to choose to live a life of integrity, filled with grace and ruled by the deliberate choice of love. The past is the past, we can learn from it, but remember those lost moments can also be forgiven, if we bring them before the Lord, and redeemed by Him in future choices made. We are invited to walk this kind of life in our Christian faith, a life that is forgiven and in that forgiveness strives to make the choices that allow us to look ourselves straight in the eyes at night by the grace of our loving God.