Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Last Gift

In our lifetime God gives us so very many gifts. He gives us, for example, lungs to breathe. Blood vessels to carry oxygen and health to every corner of our vast body. Sexual organs that not only create the wonder of new life but accomplish it with intense pleasure and intimacy. He gives us intelligence to dream and plan and the muscles to accomplish many tasks. He gives us sleep at night after the day's labor, and the satisfied memory of what we accomplished.

But after we have barely had time to begin putting these gifts to use, he gives us one final gift: he takes them all away again.

He takes them as we age and our gifts begin to fail. Metabolism slows. Muscles deteriorate and our hands begin to shake. Skin wrinkles, eyesight dims, hearing fades. Diseases multiply. Lungs may harden and hearts may grow weak. The mind begins to lose its sharpness, or strokes may rob us of speech altogether. Our proud frame stoops and our legs shuffle as we step carefully from our sitting chair to our bed, like a gray-haired toddler first learning to walk.

This is our final gift. It is given with tears and with great love. It is a gift of death that prepares us for life. After all the pride of our accomplishments, the deceitfulness of riches, and the comforts of this world, we may be too adult to enter heaven. Jesus warned us that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

And so as we begin shedding all our giftings we become children again, even infants. We grow timid, helpless, and simply nap in his arms, barely aware at times of anything but the sustenance and our need, and the presence of care as our diapers are changed, as tears slip from eyes that try to understand, as we pull ourselves up and struggle to walk and to talk.

Here, tucked in these beds, alone at times and crying for our caregiver, we become ready. And so we are humble when we fall asleep, and humble when we wake up in a bright land in the company of the mighty. And so through the sorrow of our humiliation we become as happy as Jesus in the morning light of our Father's eternity.


  1. I was sure I had commented on this when you posted it, but probably I didn't know what to say that would add anything to such a wise and gentle reflection.

    It seems to me that a fear of death often manifests itself as fear of all these little deaths that constitute getting old. And yet, they all add up to make us feel our utter contingency, "the sustenance and our need," and empty that space in our heart so that He can fill it. It is a gift alright.

  2. Thank you. I wrote it as a response to my grandfather's aging, strokes, and passing. He was a dignified, powerful man who told me once that people only suffered if they sinned. He was a winner. But the last ten years of his life were a slow stripping away of all his gifts until he could only sit without speech and wait for care. I saw in him a new sweet humility that was never there before. And the night before he died God opened his stroke-disabled speech to pray at the dinner table fluently, thanking God for all his gifts and praising him.