Excess of Life
Have you ever noticed how relentless life is? There is always some trial to endure or obstacle to surmount. And if it's not an elderly parent or a sick child to care for there's a meal to cook, laundry to do, a phone call to return, an apology to make. Often life's journey resembles more a slow trudge through thigh-deep sludge than the bracing, wind-whipped adventure we suspect—at least deep down—it should be ("the life that is truly life," as Paul puts it in 1 Timothy 6:19).
Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that death (along with all those other wages of sin) is relentless. An elderly couple is mugged on the street. A single mother is evicted. A young man is paralyzed in an accident. An infant is born lifeless. People daily suffer the indignities of war, poverty, crime, and disease.
Focusing on these realities, we quickly and quite naturally descend into despair. But when we do, we are guilty of selective hearing. For sin, suffering, and death are only part of the story.
The other part of the story is Christ's love for us, a love that is boundless, inescapable, omnipotent, and transforming. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" Paul asks in Romans 8:35. No, he affirms, "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Now there's a concept that should have us leaping out of bed every morning!
I started out whining about life's relentlessness. That happens whenever I place myself on center stage—suddenly my privileges look strangely like burdens. But is it not an honor to care for a parent or child, those blessings that so beautify and frame the tapestry of our lives? And where is my gratitude for the food I am blessed enough to cook or the clothes I have to wash, for the relationships I enjoy that require sacrifice and humility, or the forgiveness I have through Christ?
But when, by grace, I see myself in proper relationship to God and his creation and recognize the larger story in which I play only a small (albeit beloved) part, even the most repetitive of daily tasks suddenly crack open to reveal a promise of joy. Life is indeed relentless—relentlessly good, because its Creator is relentlessly loving and eternally with us. When we are most overwhelmed or most bored, we are most blind.
As G.K. Chesterton explains it:
"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again,' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again,' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: It may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."