6. Resolved, To live with all my might while I do live.
This past June, my brother Victor Lamaar Burns died after a year’s battle with cancer. We called him “Geno.” I don’t really know why, but somehow that fit him quite well. He was about 50, and regarded himself as the oldest brother of the clan despite the fact that we have one older brother (that brother didn’t count because he lived so far away from our home town). He was a jokester, sometimes a bully, but always loving toward the family when the chips were down. Cancer drove him to consider spiritual things when other things failed miserably. His last year of living was by far his best as he grew in hope despite declining physical health. He taught me more about respect than anyone I can think of.
Kay Holjes gave me my first job out of college. She was a flamboyant middle-aged woman who grew up in a Quaker home but lived more Thelma & Louise than anyone I’ve ever met. She was passionate for people with disabilities, founded from her kitchen table an organization to help them integrate into public life. She retired around age 50 to pursue painting. Moved with her professor husband, Charlie, to Reno, NV. I have never met anyone more alive, more saturated with life itself, than Kay Holjes. Every room she entered was infused with vitality, and every life she touched rejoiced at having been touched. About two years ago, Kay died of cancer in her early 50s. She never stopped living.
Last night I received an emergency call from my administrative assistant. She called to give me rather sad news. The oldest male member of the church, something of the father/grandfather of the church had been hospitalized with severe brain hemorrhaging. He is 79, plays tennis twice a week (beating men half his age to their chagrin), works four days a week, and is filled with the sweetest, Christ-like spirit of anyone I’ve met. I spent some time with his wife and son last night and this morning. Heather may be second only to Ray in sweetness of spirit and calm, assured faith. I was struck at just how well the two of them have lived life and how profoundly different the people around them are because of their abundant life.
Edwards’ resolution calls to mind these three lives. My brother started living quite late in life, almost too late. But I trust that the work the Lord started, even in the last year, is complete now. He is more alive than ever he was on this ball of clay! And Kay Holjes burned bright and steady. But I don’t know whether she died in the Lord or not. I hope so.
I suppose that Ray is the best example of Edwards’ resolution. He came to faith after his first wife died of a brain tumor, leaving him with a two year old son. He met and married his second wife, Heather, a year and a half later. He has been married nearly 60 years between his first and second marriage. He has lived several decades with the Lord, and by all accounts he has really lived.
I preach as a dying man to dying men. But I think I also need to live as a living man among men who need eternal life. Perhaps too much of my time is spent not living, not reveling in the glories of God in all of his creation, not standing jaw-dropped awed at the mystery of love, not gazing into the unfathomable depths of mercy and grace, not giving myself away to others as Christ did, not fighting for justice where it’s necessary, not giggling the silly giggle my girls giggle at the giggliest things, not… not… not… not living with all my might while I do live.
What is it about the human condition that lulls us into thinking that life is long, and slow, and always available? What makes us settle for existing rather than living vigorously? What makes Christians, of all people, wallow up and fade away rather than expending and burning passionately, radiantly with the eternal life that we have in Christ?
I want to live more like Jonathan Edwards. I want to live more like Ray McLaughlin. I want to live.