Like many of you we too have lost a wad of money (relatively speaking) in the past year with the volatile financial markets. Right now, however, it means very little to us. Seriously. In the face of real issues our distant financial future is not worth so much as a thought. Retirement accounts and every related cousin are nothing more than marshmallow garrisons that we erect in the name of future security, supposed financial responsibility, children’s college education, and utopian retirement dreams that in all likelihood will never actually be.
I don’t mean to sound callous toward those around retirement age or beyond…especially to those who have worked hard all of their lives only to see their life savings dwindle by 50% or more in the past year. That is truly painful. But if it’s devastating then you have been building a marshmallow garrison, and we all know what happens to marshmallows when they warm up.
Part of the remedy to these kinds of concerns is to be presented with something that is of true concern, like a potentially life altering brain problem for example. Since being diagnosed with this AVM everything in life looks different. The snow is whiter. The icicles more beautiful. The contrasts of colors greater. My mind more focused. My wife more precious. The kindness of people more appreciated. Each day more cherished. Retirement portfolios trivial beyond compare.
Many of you know what I’m talking about, for many of you who read this blog have endured, and are enduring now, far greater trials than I have ever experienced. For some perhaps the length and scope of your trial has erased all but the faintest memory of the kinds of emotions that I’m experiencing here at the front end of my own. That is understandable, but sad.
The thing that life changing issues often do for us, at least at the beginning of them, is that they tend to clear away all the clutter and press us down to the foundations. They force us to deal with questions like, “What is my life truly built upon?” “In what does my life truly consist? Financial security? A+ health?”
In Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus spoke to a crowd of people on a mountainside. In this sermon He spoke words that, if heeded, build titanium, not marshmallow, foundations. He urged the people to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven not on earth where thieves steal and moths and rust destroy. He said flat out that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve two masters.”
This then became the foundation upon which He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…” Jesus talks about food and clothing and how God even takes care of the birds of the air. He then takes these truths and uses them as the reason for commanding us not to be anxious about tomorrow. “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (answer: no one).
He then concludes this glorious teaching by saying “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in a tsunami on the Pacific Rim a few years ago. Thousands were killed in the World Trade Center tragedy in 2001. Hundreds were killed and injured last week in Mumbai (Bombay) India by yet another terrorist group. But guess what? Life still goes on. People love. People hate. Children are born. Loved ones die. Time marches on…not stopping for me or anyone else…or anyone’s problem no matter how great.
Am I the only one or are there others out there who think that there should be a “stop” button we could push where the whole world would stop, even if only momentarily, and grieve with us at the death of a loved one, or at the news of a loved one in a horrible car accident, or for the perfectly healthy woman, mother of three beautiful daughters, who finds out one day that she is filled with cancer and has six weeks to live? Or…
The remedy to financial woes or a health crisis is the same remedy as for everything in life: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…He will take care of us. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Marshmallow garrisons are sweet nothings.