You Won’t Exist Forever
Do you ever get discouraged by the fact that your life isn’t bigger or more grand? Sometimes I find myself mistakenly thinking I can sort of defeat mortality if I can do something to be remembered.
My father passed away recently and the grief I find myself wading through everyday makes my own mortality press in more and more. This pressing has finally started to yield some perspective and not just sadness. Here’s what I’ve realized:
I am mortal, but I … am.
In other words, I won’t exist forever, but I do exist right now. I have been given this life, what will I do with it today?
Psalm 103 says: “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV)
At first glance, this verse is a discouraging reminder of the fleeting nature of life. But actually it can be a beautiful answer to the “Who will I be today?” question.
I want to be the flower. Yes, the wind will pass over me, I will be gone, and my place will know me no more. But before that happens, I will flourish. Today I can thrive like a flower of the field.
There’s no regret for the flower.
The flower doesn’t waste time wishing it was a tree. A tree is bigger and stronger than a flower. It has deeper roots and lives longer. But the flower grows to maturity much faster than a tree. In a storm, both tree and flower can bend and sway without being broken, but unlike the flower, the tree is a lightning rod.
The flower doesn’t wish it was a blade of grass. A blade of grass is smaller and thinner than a flower. It is integrated into community and is resilient enough to handle being stepped on. But a blade of grass is not unique. No single blade of grass is compelling enough to make someone pause and observe its beauty.
The flower doesn’t lament that it isn’t a butterfly. A butterfly has more freedom and experience in the world than a flower. A butterfly has a bigger vision, a higher perspective than a single flower. But the flower gains strength from its roots. The flower can stay put and enhance its environment right where it grows.
The wonderful thing about the flower is that it never tries to be something else. The beauty and purpose of the flower are different from what the tree and grass bring to the landscape. The flower offers the world something the butterfly simply can’t.
You, too. Your beauty and purpose are unique to the landscape. You offer the world something no one else can.
Believe it or not, Pope Francis agrees with me. In shaking hands with the public in April, a man shouted to him, “There’s no one like you!” The Pope responded, “You, too! There’s nobody like you, too! There are no two people like you!” (Click here to see the video.)
In our hyper-competitive world, I tell my children this all the time — you are the best you there will ever be. You don’t need to be her or him, you just have to be you. She may be better at spelling. He may be a better athlete. But neither of them would be any good at being you.
This is one of those pieces of advice I give my children with full awareness that I need to hear it too. I wish you and I could sit down with a cup of coffee and we could tell each other this face to face: You are the best you God’s ever made.
Yes, you are mortal, but you … are. You won’t exist forever, but you do exist right now.