Tonight I was privileged to sit in a Bible class about the book of Job, taught by a real Bible scholar, Brandon Renfroe. He reminisced a bit about a statement made by Wendell Winker. I’m not sure I’m getting this word-for word, but he said that everyone wears an inner garment of sackcloth. The point being made, of course, was that, like Job’s companions, we often do not know or comprehend the extent of the suffering others may be enduring.
If everyone wears “secret sackcloth”…then surely every Christian woman should also be wearing a sort of secret “party dress”…a celebration garment. See, in Christ, we all have much in every day about which to rejoice, even when things are tough and circumstances are challenging. Even a casual reading of the short letter to the Philippians makes me ashamed of the days in which I have failed to rejoice. It makes me keenly aware that the substance of joy is not in delightful circumstances or ease of living. It’s in Christ. It’s the peace—a peace that surpasses our capacity to understand— that gives us the inner garment of celebration (Phil. 4:7).
It’s funny how that, as I grow older, I become more and more intent on living in the moment—taking joy from the good things that are right here and right now. I think that happens to us in our fifties, when we start to realize that we are not really even middle-aged, much less young (because we are probably NOT going to live to be 110!) “Over the hill” was funny at parties when I and my comrades were turning thirty. Now that the hill really is in the rearview mirror, “over the hill” is less funny and more sobering. Most of all, it makes the moments of life increase in their intrinsic value. (It’s supply and demand. Every commodity becomes more valuable when there is less of that commodity.) When you realize the moments are fleeting, you search them out. You want to find their sweetness and extract it. You just begin to live more in each moment.
So, today, a day spent with my ninety-three-year-old father, held a bunch of ripe moments that were worth the savoring. Here are a baker’s dozen of them:
- We bowed our heads in a busy breakfast restaurant and I heard him thank the Father for “all Thy many blessings.”
- He can still carefully place each of his morning pills on a grid, wash them down with that liquid med, check them off as taken, and get it all right (at least mostly). That’s a super huge blessing.
- He voluntarily did his muscle therapy. It made me feel a bit ashamed of all the mornings I find excuses to skip the treadmill.
- He wanted to get on about the business of getting that Christmas tree and finding the stockings, buying fruit and getting me up in that barn loft to find the decorations. I hope I can still “have fun” when I’m a nonagenarian, if I even get to be one.
- He did not want me to pick the tree. He wanted to peruse, with walker, the long aisles of trees and this WWII veteran could not BELIEVE that some of those little trees were sixty-five dollars and they were “not even Scotch pine.”
- Happiness for him was finding a tree that was full and pretty and six feet tall and, best of all, twenty-five dollars.
- He had me hold it up, so he could walk around it, twice. “I think I’ve found my tree, right there.”
- The thing that made him happiest was that, when we got to the register, that tree was on sale for $19.99. “I never even knew I was going to get it for a cheaper price!”
- For hours, I watched him organizing and attaching name tags to big red stockings. He was happy to find that tiny red one. “This one would be good for Ezra, but I’m not sure all his stuff will fit.”
- He doesn’t know the first thing about my laptop, but he does want it in HIS lap when I’m scrolling through pictures of Ezra or watching his soon-to-be grand daughter-in-law on that new FHU lectureship promo video. “Is there anything that you can’t find on a computer?”
- “Let’s leave the Christmas tree on when we go to church, so we can see what it looks like!”
- I heard the trembling voice beside me in worship singing “Years I spent in vanity and pride…Caring not my Lord was crucified.” I don’t think there were many of his years spent in “caring not.” But then probably all of us have spent most of our years needing to care…more.
- Commenting on the class as we were driving away from the church building: “I couldn’t hear so much of what he said in class, but it sounded like he was not so complimentary of Job all the time.” I went on to tell him that I thought it was more Job’s friends that he was criticizing. “Well, I don’t think you could call them friends. In fact Job told them they were pretty miserable counselors, at one point.”
Well, I want us all to be good counselors—real friends—women who are full of the Philippians kind of joy and comfort and women who are able to seize that joy and pass it around when sisters are in need. That’s how we will make it to heaven together. I want us to really live our lives—every moment of them— in the happy, hopeful shadow of the cross. It’s a perpetual inner celebration that only people in the family can understand.