Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Gift of Earthen Vessels

The earthen vessel of my body is wearing out. The passage of time is etched in a growing crop of wrinkles, verified by once-black hair now salt-and-pepper, and further evidenced by taut muscles and stiff joints. My brain occasionally takes a circuitous, slow route to retrieve and deliver that perfect word to the tip of my tongue. Retinal detachment nearly cost my vision in one eye.

I see my closest friends transitioning to a new relationship with their bodies, too. My best friend, since grade school, recently came to visit.  Although not quite old enough to draw a social security check, my friend now wears hearing aids to help manage a hereditary late-onset hearing loss that will result in the severe deafness. Another friend is dealing with more frequent and severe ulcerative colitis flare-ups.

We all hear, half in lament and half in jest, “Growing old is not for the weak of heart,” or “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken care of my body!” But consider the bright side associated with the breakdown of our bodies: we have the opportunity to face our mortality head-on. We become keenly aware that we will not live forever—on this side of the grave. That awareness is the gift!

My awareness of the transience of life is an invitation to take inventory of my life, to decide what is most important, to commit to a daily routine of prayer for the living and the dead, and to cultivate devotions, like the Rosary.

I ask, "What do I want the last third of my life to look like?" and "What lessons I have learned through the mistakes of the first two-thirds of my life?" I look back to see the hand of God gently, patiently teaching me—using even my sins—covered over with His Grace and Mercy. I am learning to lean more into God because it is clear that I cannot do everything like I used to do.  That realization is a gift!

I observe non-Christian friends and family members searching for the meaning of life.  I rejoice to know that even dead-end detours, leading away from the path of Truth, will result in disequilibrium because of the powerful homing device planted in my loved ones' hearts by the Creator. One of my favorite saints, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), said that all those who seek truth, seek God, whether it is clear to them or not. ( I confidently pray that my loved ones will knock at the door where Christ stands waiting for them.  That confidence is a gift and springs from the prayers of a broken earthen vessel that God still uses.

“But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” (2 Cor 4:7, NAB)