Do you miss your great-great grandparents? Or their parents? Or anyone before them?
It’s eerie to look into the not-too-deep past and realize what a small impact those not-too-distant ancestors have on us. We don’t miss them; we barely even think about them. But isn’t that what we want—to know we will be missed when we’re gone? Being missed means we have made an impact in the world and in the lives of the few, or the many, who do the missing.
Yesterday I got a call from my mom that Onyx, our 9-year-old pup, has been having seizures. He’s never had them before, but apparently he was thrashing around and losing control of his body and then didn’t recognize my parents for an hour after each episode; he had 4 in 2 days.
I found that this usually means they have a tumor and the end is near. My parents—whom I agree with—won’t pay thousands of dollars for surgery, so I don’t know how much time he has left. Nine isn’t even THAT old. I thought he had several years left in him, but we will find out in the next few days. The not knowing is the worst part. My mom asked me to come be with him today while they were at work, just to be sure he doesn’t have any more seizures and hurt himself. He didn’t, fortunately, but it was still bittersweet, knowing that’s the reason I was there.
It also became more bitter when I realized that 4 or 5 people MAX will even miss him, despite how massive his presence is in my own life. I began asking questions like, Because his existence affects so few people, does that make it insignificant? Do numbers determine cosmic importance?
Cosmically speaking then, even if my funeral pulls 200 people, what is that number against billions of humans over millions of years in a universe millions of lightyears across?
I will barely be missed; I will surely be forgotten.
When things like this happen, it causes my life to pull into focus. Even though he’s ‘just’ a dog, it’s a reminder of my own mortality, and that of my parents, and essentially, everyone I know. Then I think about my own funeral and hope there will be more than 4 or 5 people there, but then wonder why that would even matter. Everyone at my funeral will also one day die, so why would I strive so much to have a big funeral as opposed to a small one, when just 100 years from now, that won’t matter at all? Big or small funeral, I’ll be forgotten.
In most of my blog posts, I would turn this into a triumphant declaration of the gospel and Christ breathing meaning into matter, but on a personal level, that’s harder to believe when I’m facing my own mortality and significance. Do I want to matter after I’m gone? Do I just want to be missed when I’m gone?
Do you miss your great-great-great grandparents?
The other day my throat hurt so bad I thought I may have reached my own end. I began imagining what would happen if it was somehow the end of Ethan M. Renoe and if I didn’t wake up the next day. It was strange, even if I was pretty sure it wasn’t realistic.
Not yet, anyway.
If you’re anything like me, you may lose your temper at small grievances like getting a speeding ticket, or become impatient with some annoying person on the bus. But you expect that when something big; something real happens, you’ll react like a saint. Like if a family member passed away, or if you got cancer, you expect that you’d somehow transform into a world-class poet who graces the world with her smile and exemplifies grace in the face of agony and doom.
After the non-stop Kick Ethan’s Nuts Festival known as 2019, I have only learned one thing:
I am no saint.
After being sick for 7 months, 4 sinus infections, 2 anal abscesses (which I never admitted publicly before, for obvious reasons, but they were in the top 3 most painful things I’ve experienced), one heartbreak, one wristbreak, one toothache, and now a sick dog, I’m about ready for this season to end.
Did I accept my crap pile of a year with grace and pensive reflection? Of course not! I complained and tried to learn some profound lesson from it, but nothing has yet come. Nothing, save, perhaps a closer examination of my own mortality.
Perhaps all God was trying to do this year was put me in my place.
Perhaps He was just trying to prick a needle into my inflated head.
In that case, it has worked. Not being able to exercise or socialize as usual has certainly pulled my self perception into a slightly more realistic perspective. I’ve been reckoning with my coming demise and the debris I will have left the world in my wake.
But maybe, just like Onyx, I will have mattered deeply to a very small number of people. And maybe, though making many mistakes in those relationships, I tried to love them well, and that’s about all we can hope for.
But there’s more, isn’t there? There always is.
We have become familiar with the rhetoric of Christ taking our sin and trading it for His righteousness, right? His good stuff for our bad stuff. He died our death and gave us His life. But what if there’s more?
What if, in addition to giving us His life, He also gave us His meaning, His purpose? What if, without Him, we have no purpose but to exist and vanish, but with Him, we are handed infinite worth, value, and meaning?
I’m figuring this out as I type.
What that means is, you get to see your life two ways, with or without His imparted significance. Without Him, you’re a pawn in the machine of nations and your most sincere prayer must be, “Bury me in an unmarked grave, another casualty to the vanity of history.”
But with Him, with His imparted purpose, you can simply exist and know that you matter. Those who dwell in the sphere of His love also inherit His significance. Any attempt to earn this will surely be in vain. Otherwise, we would have no explanation for the value of human life, especially those who are handicapped or sick or weak.
I guess I have learned something from this season of suffering: Work to prove my worth less; enjoy my imparted worth more.
May we be people who recognize our inherent value given to us by Christ, and live out of that first and foremost. Before we try to validate ourselves or prove our worth, may our undeserved significance be a sign to the world that Jesus is the Giver, not only of life, but of meaning.
Ethan, you are wonderfully transparent —which is excellent. You are not in denial. There has been a huge disconnect in our world concerning a deficient view of God handed down to us for generations. Jesus has been marginalized and excluded and systematically shut out from nearly all of life. In reality Jesus is a man like you with emotions and hopes and purpose. He is an intimate friend to anyone who is willing to allow himself / herself to be known by Him. This requires risk on our part. Allowing such a real one-on-one intimacy is scary at first. Until a person experiences the love of Jesus and His forgiveness and His affirmation the old default is preferable. Seeing Jesus as He really is now, is a huge liberation. You are a beloved son and He will never leave you nor forsake you. If you grant Jesus permission He will show up and pour vast amounts of love into your aching body and soul and spirit. The trials may get worse but Jesus wishes intimacy with you 24/7. You are a member of a very small number of true followers of the Lord and many are on the same path. You are a beloved son of God most high.
See if Hebrews 1:1 – 2:4 helps:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
And of the angels He says:
“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”
But to the Son He says
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail.”
But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?“