A few months ago, I was driving along happily when suddenly my old Honda puttered out and died. There was nothing wrong that I was aware of and no warning signs, but rather a sudden and unexpected interruption that became quite an inconvenience.
Fortunately, I was able to steer to the side of the road and arrange for the car to be towed. After a few weeks in the shop, it was brought to life again.
I remember driving it away with a very uneasy feeling. This car was 32 years old. It had already stranded me once. What if it did it again?
The sense of security I’d had before was gone, replaced with a sense of uncertainty, even soberness.
As these thoughts marinated in my head, a much deeper realization came over me: Who the heck do I think I am? If I place my security in a car, and it fails me, how much less this life?
I began to realize that I lived much of my life with a similar sense of artificial security. I often wake up, stand, breathe and move about without ever thinking that these are each things that could be taken from me in an instant. Yet I expect them as if they were deserved, and don’t think about how fragile life really is.
In chapter 12 of Luke, Jesus tells a story that speaks to these things.
“The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods – who gets it?’”
There is a lesson here: Nothing should be taken for granted, for none of us knows the day we will no longer be.
A few years ago I was on the way home from vacation with my family when I got a phone call that changed my life forever. It was an insurance agent from USAA. Once he confirmed my identity, he began asking questions about the fire at my father’s house.
Not knowing what he was talking about, I asked him some questions of my own. It was a very awkward conversation, because it was then that I was made aware that my father had died suddenly in a very tragic accident.
This began one of the most painful seasons of my life. It was a sudden and unexpected interruption that changed me forever, an experience that made me familiar with pain, depression, and sobriety of soul that I had never known before. But in all the pain, I learned some things.
It is with that sobriety of soul that I now try to approach life much more slowly and resolutely. Whether it be the sudden breakdown of a vehicle or the sudden death of a loved one, these things remind us that life is fragile.
THE REV. JEFF MILLER IS THE PASTOR OF THE VINEYARD COMMUNITY CHURCH IN AUGUSTA.