“From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
~1 Corinthians 7:29-31~
When my husband’s grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, there was a line in her obituary, written by one of her sons, that stood out to me and made me sad. When describing the many things in her life that she’d done throughout her almost 92 years, included in there was a line about her saying something along the lines of her being “one who regularly gave more love than she received in return.”
As I thought about it more, it seemed very true. At Christmas she used to give each of her grandkids a huge gift bag filled with presents and money. I was always included in this. Sometimes it was a homemade afghan. Sometimes it was a cookie cookbook with a cookie jar. For a while our son was included as well, but as time went on, and we had more kids, and she got older and started slowing down, the gift bags transitioned to an envelope of money.
And so it went, year after year, with Christmas cards and birthdays. Besides my own kids at Christmas, I’m not a great gift-giver. I don’t know what to get people. I don’t think about it soon enough. But as time went on we did try to remember the grandparents at Christmas time at least with a card or family picture or something. One time we got her some nice-smelling lotion because it seemed like something you might get for a grandma. I don’t know if it bothered her, as she slowed down even more, that the gift-giving and card-sending was so often one-sided.
But it bothered me. “What a horrid way to live your life”, I thought, to live that long, to love that much, for those who didn’t even love you the same way back. I’ve had similar thoughts regarding similar situations. I can see the same thing in the life of my grandmother. She’d send out packages for each family, filled with stocking stuffers and presents for the grandkids and great-grandkids. For years she did this and it gave her great joy.
She did this until she could no longer do it. I know the giving thing isn’t just something that happens with grandmas and moms. At some point, what dads receive for Christmas are socks and peanuts, coffee and maybe a special mug. There’s this point in adulthood where gifts are nice, but at the same time, you don’t really need anything that you couldn’t just go out and buy yourself. Holidays are more about the joy of giving, being with loved ones, and being grateful for the time together.
And as life goes on further, that’s what all of life becomes; about the joy of giving, being with loved ones, and being grateful for time together. Or at least that’s what it’s become, or is becoming more for me. I look around at my family and the way they’re expanding, the way they are growing, the way they simply for the past several years have kept going about their daily lives including more and more things outside of our home life, and I find it sometimes to be a little disorienting.
I think there was a part of me that was hoping that all this stuff that happened with my health would be a wake-up call. That’s how these stories are supposed to go. You go through hard times that make you more appreciative of the people around you. You walk away humbled and more aware of life’s brevity. You realize how stupid you’ve been and how you don’t want to live that way anymore.
They say it makes you more compassionate toward the pains and sufferings of others, something I wouldn’t have thought was something I needed or my problem. I remember when Tim Keller was first diagnosed with cancer, he tweeted out something about asking for prayers that God would work to wean him from the joys and pleasures of this life. This is another thing they say God does in our trials, that he uses them to push us further toward the goal of this life, to raise us ever closer to the joys of God in the next one.