A couple days ago I finished a Richard Paul Evan's novel, A Perfect Day. To those of you who don't know me, I gush for the purpose-driven and philosophical fiction--part of my rare personality type, I suppose--I seek to find purpose in almost everything (INFJ for those of you who are Myers-Briggs savvy). Evans does this more sentimental genre with ease--not heavy-handed like sermonette novels I not-so-fondly refer to them. If I could imitate his style, I would. He captures your attention with his plot line, but sinks in these philosophical ideas that make you stop and ponder a minute (well, at least they do that for me). Ah, the meaning and depth of life.
Two lines hang in my mind and I just can't seem to shake them off. Maybe I'm not supposed to.
The main character hits it big--his first novel makes the NYT Best-seller list and flies to the top. As he tours for book signings, he loses sight of his family and encounters a stranger (surprising twist on that one) who tells him he has till the end of the year to live. The man find humor in the protagonist's stunned disbelief. Everyone acts is if it won't happen to them; that death is just an illusion. But when the main character starts to accept it, he says,"I felt as if I had come to take an exam, only to find that I had been studying for the wrong test" (199). Life is suddenly upside-down. Did he think he'd live forever? His family would wait while he fulfilled himself with "identity" and "purpose"? Why did it take a person telling him "your time is up" to realize he was on the wrong path?
Evans ends his novel with these words, which I think capture the whole essence of his book: "I've learned that the greatest threat to love is not circumstance but the absence of attention. For we do not neglect others because we have ceased to love; rather we cease to love others because we have neglected them" (273).
I--assessing myself as well--have heard these phrases: "When I get this done, we'll take time for..." "After this... than this..." "Wait till I (fill in the blank)..."
Are all if/then statements bad? Of course not. Part of our existence in Christ is about waiting in hope of something better. But if our life's mission is put on hold for something lesser (accomplishments, finances, renewed identity, higher achievement, etc.) we are on the wrong road. I'm really preaching to myself, as you see I'd almost always put a task above a person. I love people; I love deep, meaningful conversations, I love laughing with girlfriends, I love serving them, but I have to work sometimes
* to set down the mop to play a game with the kids
* drop the grading to dry a tear or answer a question
* left the dinner be "late" so I can encourage my husband and listen to his day.
What do I do when I say, "Just let me finish this one thing and then I'll...
hug your neck,
kiss your bruise,
dry your tear?
I show that my tasks are my source of fulfillment: getting it done is more important that cherishing your heart--loving you well.
So, I guess in many ways I study for the wrong test. I'm not going to be graded on how many degrees I earned, books I publish, lists I complete, how clean my floors were, if I kept up with the laundry, or even how many service projects I accomplished for the church.
I will "be graded" on how well I loved. And love doesn't come through neglect.
If you were told you only had 2 months to your certain exit from this world, how would you approach your time? What would change, if anything?