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Points to Ponder: Here Lies a Hard Worker
Points to Ponder
Here Lies a Hard Worker
I drive down a certain road every so often where there once stood a thriving business. About 30 years ago it was a bustling, profitable enterprise. It passed through times of glorious success, winning awards and accolades. Over the years, its owner made a comfortable living from a reliable customer base.
One day, the owner (only in his 50's) suddenly died. Having no church affiliation of his own, I was asked to officiate the funeral. In an attempt to get to know the man and prepare the service, I met with his small family. He'd been divorced for some time, but had a live-in girlfriend. His children met with me.
Sad to say there was not too much to say. His kids rarely saw him or spent time with him. What special moments, life lessons, or important insights did they learn from their father, I asked them. A brief silence followed. The look on their faces indicated that a search of their memory banks was underway. But it was extremely brief. There was nothing of value, no wisdom, no good story they could tell. "Dad worked all the time; we didn't see him much," one said. Interesting that they weren't angry, or remorseful; just matter of fact.
Could they mourn or miss something they've never had? Was that it? Was that all? That was life as they'd known it. It was what it was.
We held a simple service. His business died not too long after he did. As far as I could tell, there's nothing tangible that remains from all of his "hard work". "He was a hard worker," they said.
That's always said in a sort of reverent way, it seems. On the graves of hallowed individuals we could write: "Here lies John Doe - a hard worker." And people could come and stand in awe of these words and say, "Wow . . . this guy was a hard worker." And then, if there's a child in their company she will bluntly add: "Yeah - and he's dead." If there's a teenager, he will pluck off his head phones long enough to utter prophetic wisdom: "Note the words, dude: 'here lies'. I don't think he'll be working much anymore. Bummer."
"What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:3-4).
Time flies and life goes on. And then you die. David pondered this in prayer.
"Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them" (Psalm 39:4-6).
Some people who have been in their career, or ministry, for multiple decades come to the point where they will admit to themselves and openly to others that most of their life is over. There's more water under the bridge than there is left upstream.
Rev. H. B. London, having been a local church pastor for 31 years and now in a parachurch ministry to pastors for 17 years, recently wrote that he "could not get over the fact" that his life had passed by so quickly. A moment of reflection:
"I have often wondered what I would do differently had I that opportunity. My make-up is not to slow down, but I should have. My nature is to take life much too seriously, but I could have mellowed some. There were times when I allowed the work of the church to dominate my life, and there really was no need for that. I always wished I was smarter; I should have studied more. And I probably should have stayed home instead of traveling so much. But what has been cannot be changed. I just know it all happened so quickly. So much so, that I can't even remember some of it. Life can become a blur." (Pastor's Weekly Briefing, 7/19/08, Focus on the Family)
It's Monday, as I'm writing this. Having just returned from two weeks' vacation, I have much to get done. But a friend called. "Do you have some time?" I made the time for breakfast with him. Then Marcella called. She and the girls were stopping for lunch, a few miles away,. Would I like to join them or "do you have a lot of stuff to do?" By then the morning was gone and I did have a lot of stuff to do. But I packed up and joined them. The Lord has tried to teach me to love people first and He'll help me with the rest. As you can see, this article got written. Other stuff that needed done, got done eventually.
I'm not always so noble and wise as I was that morning, but I made good decisions that day. Both of our daughters are still small (ages 9 and 4) and I'm not yet 20 years in the work of the church. I reflect on the statements of my elder colleagues. I try to learn from their mistakes so that I don't have to make them myself. Whether you're a pastor or in any kind of vocation, the wisdom is there to teach us.
As the words of that old Carly Simon song go: "These are the good old days." We are living in our past right now. When you look back at these times, how will you regard them? Or do you just blithely go on with the routine of making a living till you no longer are; will life pass you by because you weren't treasuring the time while you had it? Will you one day regret what you did or did not do with your time?
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.
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