This is not a story, per se, although there is a story in it. This is a written version of my musings last Saturday morning, (2/2/13).
Since it is not really a story, perhaps it does not belong here, but I suppose this is the closest fit we have for it on AAPK.
I you enjoy reading it.
People talk about the gift of life but few people ever stop and realize really how true that is. The world is a brutal place. If you've grown up in nature or around nature, like I have, then you know that life in the wild is kill or be killed. No matter how beautiful, how serene and harmonious it may seem in the wilderness, death is all around. This is even true in the beautiful mountains where I grew up, probably the most peaceful place I have been in my life. Death is all around, but life comes from the death. Moss grows on trees and some of those even help to kill the tree. Fungi grown on the dead trees, on dead plant matter and even in manure, helping to break down the dead plant matter, and in so doing return nutrients to the soil for the next generation of plants and animals.
The animal kingdom in the mountains where I lived was also full of death. A deer died to feed a cougar, and the scraps left by the cougar in turn fed other animals and plants. I am more familiar with the cycle in the mountains where I grew up than I am in other places. Although death is a part of life whether in the mountains, on the plains, in the desert or in the water, death is part of life.
The fact that I was born into this world and survived, to have children and grandchildren, and then to become an old man is indeed a gift. I had any number of close brushes with death in my life, the first when I was five years old. My mother had taken my brother and I to visit some people she knew at a church camp. I was swimming in the river with all the other kids when the inner tube I was on turned over. I remember going down to the bottom of the river and seeing pretty rocks on the bottom. That was the last thing I remember until I woke up on the bank. A man has seen what happened and waded into the river and pulled me out and revived me. I was once again given the gift of life. I had any number of close calls while growing up, (most of which I can't even remember when I sit down and think about them), but several times in my life death was so close that I can only thank God that I was repeatedly given the gift of life in the midst of death.
The Bible talks about "grace." In the Greek language, the language in which the New Testament was written, the word grace is "charis," which means "gift." It is also translated as "unmerited favor," something we are given that we did not earn; something that we had no right to claim. As I look back over the 60 odd years of my life I see a lot of grace. God has given me so many things I didn't deserve; things I had no right to expect or claim for my own. And even though I live in pain every day with a disorder that they tell me will one day kill me, every day I thank God for the gift of life, but even more I thank Him for His Grace; grace that has added meaning to my life.
It is one thing to live one's life and then to die. We all do that, but the meaning added to my life as a function of God's grace. It puts my life into a context that enriches me and my family and hopefully everyone I interact with in my life. I am no one special. I am the eldest of five children, (three boys and two girls). My brother who was 18 months younger than I died about the time I started school. I worked hard most all my life, raised my six children and retired when my body would no longer function properly in the work environment. I am one of the 7 billion people who I am told currently inhabit this planet. I'm not anyone special.
This is where the gift comes in, the grace of God. Even though I am no one special, one face in a sea of 7 billion, God is so great and his grace is so great that he cares about me, about my well being, about my life and who I am. His gift is that even though he created the universe, despite my inconsequential life, He; the God who created all that is; wants to know me. He cares about me. He cares about how my day is going and even about how I feel.
At this point the cynic might ask, "If he cares and if he is so great, why doesn't he heal you? Why do you need to suffer if he is a great and good God?" My answer would be, "Because if he did, he wouldn't love me, he wouldn't be a good father." In mentioning the cynic face at this moment, I suppose this does require an explanation.
Throughout the Bible God is referred to with the image of a father. He is pictured as the perfect Father; even The Heavenly Father. I believe He chose the analogy of fatherhood as it applies to himself, quite deliberately. We human beings understand fatherhood. We all have a father, even if only biologically and not in our lives. Most of us have an expectation of what fatherhood is and the difference between a good father and a bad father. Based on that expectation I would like to explain my previous remark.
When my youngest boy was about 10 years old he decided he wanted to make money. He mowed lawns for a couple old ladies, but he decided he could make more money if he had his own lawnmower. At the time I was very busy working. I could have bought a new lawnmower and given it to him. This would have accomplished what he wanted, and accomplish it rather nicely with a brand-new lawnmower for him. Instead of granting him his wish, I helped him build a lawnmower. I had an old lawnmower motor that he succeeded in getting running, (a small miracle from my perspective). I located a use lawnmower frame. I purchased the frame for $20 and together my son and I worked on this little project. We found a gas tank and installed it on the lawnmower along with the motor. It took a few days of working together to find all the parts and then one Saturday afternoon to complete the installation. I didn't do the work on the lawnmower; my son did the work and I provided an extra hand and occasional technical advice. After we got the lawnmower running we were both rather pleased. After mowing a couple lawns he repaid me the $20 I spent on the frame. I required that of him so that he owned the lawnmower totally. The motor was a gift, the $20 for the frame was a loan so that he had ownership. For the next three or four years you could see my son around town mowing lawns with the lawnmower he built. He was very proud of it and because of that he took very good care of that lawnmower, performing regular maintenance. That lawnmower lasted through more lawns than I could have ever imagined.
Now if I had given my son a new lawnmower and said, "Here you go." He would no doubt have been happy, but there are several things he would have missed. He would not have learned the value of being thrifty, of using something old instead of something new, he would not have learned the pride in ownership that he had by buying the frame and he would not have learned the mechanical intricacies of his mower without the work we did together on it. But most important to me and in retrospect I think to him, (now that he is a father), it's the afternoon we had together taking old parts and making a new lawnmower. The companionship we enjoyed as father and son working on that lawnmower was precious to us both. We enjoyed many times working together when he was growing up. Sometimes it was a lawnmower, sometimes we worked on fishing reels and often times we worked on the car together. The most important thing was the time we spent together. I get a catch in my throat and my eyes get moist when he says to me, "Papa, I can't wait until my son gets old enough where we can work on things together like you and I did."
You see the real gift of God to me is not just life, or the many things He has blessed me with; it is the fact that every morning when I wake up to face the pain of the coming day; He, the creator of the universe, is there to walk with me, to help me work through the problems I face. He was there when the pain becomes so overwhelming that I can do nothing but go to bed; He is there to comfort me. He is there to spend time with me and help me work through the problems I face. Yes, He did create the universe and He can do anything He pleases because He is God. It would be no problem for Him at all to say, "You are healed." I could get up and never again face the debilitating pain and deteriorating body parts that I have now. But I would miss out on the greatest gift I've ever had. I would miss out on the daily companionship of the Creator of the universe has He helps me work through the problems I face. I would miss the daily presence of the King who remembers my name!