“For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths” (Proverbs 5:21, NIV 2011).
I received two important gifts from family this Christmas. The first was Destiny and Power, John Meacham’s biography of George H.W. Bush. He was the first Bush president: the one who freed Kuwait from Iraq, ended the cold war with Russia, said, “No new taxes,” then changed his mind and lost his second term because of the broken promise and Ross Perot. He was one of the Greatest Generation, like my father, who served our country during the Second World War and then led us to our peak of greatness as a nation, who chose dignity, honor, duty and service as principles to live by. It has been a pleasure to read his story and remember a day when such principles were popular in our country.
The second gift was from my mom. It was a quilt, a peculiar gift at first. But then I realized the quilt was made from the shirts my dad wore over the last decade of his life. My dad was not a stylish dresser and his shirts were famous in paisley, prints and stripes. He got away with it because he was a great man, made of the same dignity, duty, honor and service that the first Bush was fashioned from. Once I recognized the nature of the quilt, I could pick out the patches of each infamous shirt and remember with great fondness the great man who wore them. A special gift…my sister held it to her face and said, “It even smells like Daddy.” Only a mother could do that.
Thank God my life is far more like a patchwork quilt made from shirts I have worn rather than a solid colored pallet.
As we go through life, we so often judge our value and worth based on the present circumstance. If our patient has done amazingly well, we know what good healthcare professionals we are. If the sheriff comes with a malpractice notification, we understand how far we fall short. If our children are happy and following the rules, we are great parents; if they are in trouble, we question our worth as mom or dad. We serve God sacrificially for the moment, then fail Him miserably the next.
As we are caught up in each circumstance, we define our lives by that circumstance and measure our worth by the moment.
Thank God none of us are fully defined by a moment in which we might say, “No more taxes,” followed by a broken promise. Thank God He takes all the shirts we have worn and patches them together as a beautiful quilt. The beauty is in the whole, of which our present circumstance is only a small patch. There is no place for pride as we look at one patch or despair as we look at another. Whether it be a dark patch or a light patch is important only for the moment, whether disappointing or glorious. What really matters is the finished quilt of our lives, the one that God has fashioned in His Grace, the one He can hold to his face and say, “It smells like Jesus.”
Let me be confident in your ability to fashion beauty and purpose from this very imperfect life.