Monday, October 22, 2012

Set My Face

It occurred to me today that my mom and dad are no longer on this planet. No matter how far I travel, there is no way of getting to the place where they are, save one.

Of course, it makes me miss them. My parents have come to mind often lately: looking through a little book of stories my aunt wrote for my mom's 50th birthday; wondering what my dad would say about the current housing market; seeing my mom's calendar on our wall and knowing that within those pages there is a day when she left us.

But I am also learning to number my days better on this planet. Not only the Scrooge's in the world should listen to the warning of the Ghost of Christmas Past: "They sought to intervene for good, in human matters, and had lost the power forever." This is it - our one shot at making a difference in a fallen world. One day we will leave this planet and not return until its transformation into "a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."

Is it just me, or does our whole western society engage in avoidance behavior around the topic of our mortality? There have been eras and places in the world where death has been a familiar companion, readily talked about and mitigated by traditional rites and long-established ceremony. Here, we save death for the TV screen and newsreel, as far removed from our personal experience as possible. Death only happens to other people. When it touches us personally, it is as much of a surprise as if we made it on the TV screen ourselves.

Surely that attitude is not appropriate for the follower of Jesus. I see him walking with his disciples toward City, and his disciples cannot get his attention. Luke tells us, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." Isaiah predicted this attitude, that he would confront death resolutely:

I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.
But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

What in life matters to me so much that I cannot be distracted from this one purpose, though it takes me toward the completion of my days on earth? The writer of Hebrews, after enumerating many saints whose faith meant death, says, "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Toward what have I set my face?

The sentence stares at me, and though I attempt to improve its grammar I cannot escape its grip. This evening I told the students that I have a hard time reading what they really care about. That I want them to care about something that lines up with what God cares about. Pretty bold, when I have a hard time reading what I care about, really care about.

So I leave you with the question. Please tell me what you are planning/dreaming/doing with your one shot at life on Planet Earth. Where your face is set. Feel free to comment below.