Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Losing My Marbles

Well I am back from vacation. The world did not stop while I was gone. Work piled up. Correspondence kept coming in. Church drama still occurred. You would think that once you had a terminal illness that those types of things would improve, but at the end of the day, life happens. So what’s one of the first things I did when I got back? I took a glass vase, placed it squarely on   That's in interesting story.
my desk and placed in it 256 marbles. Why 256 marbles?

At my first appointment (for non-UMC folks, that means my first church) there was a man who was 93 years young. He was amazing. Every week he came to the little church I served, gave the children pieces of Juicy Fruit gum and quarters, sat on the third row on the right next to the window and, promptly, fell asleep during the sermon.

One day I went to visit him at the home of his daughter with whom he lived. I found him out in the garden, sitting in a customized lawn chair, hoeing and weeding his garden. The plants were full of fresh vegetables that I knew he harvested and gave away with great joy. He sent me to the garden shed for a tool and on the counter was a jar of marbles.

When I returned I asked him about the jar of marbles. He went on to explain how when he was fifty a friend of his died suddenly and, he said, it made him think. He told me how he figured he’d be lucky to make it to 72, which means he had about 1,000 weeks left. He needed something to remind him to make every week, every day count. So, he went to the local five and dime store and bought 1,000 marbles and put them in a glass jug. Every week he would take out a new marble to carry around in his pocket all week and drop last week’s marble in a drawer in the garden shed. He said it reminded him to make the most of every day. It reminded him to let small offenses go, to live open handed, to share whatever he had, and to live every week for God. He said when you realize you have limited time you make sure you don’t miss church, or praying with your family, or telling people you love them.

“Um, Mr. Croom, you are a lot older than 72.” I said to him.

“Yep, that’s true. It is kind of scary when you take the last marble out of your jar.” He laughed recalling that Saturday. He said that the next week he realized every week after that was like a precious gift from God. He began putting marbles back into the jar thanking God for the extra time to make a difference in this world and to prepare for the next one. By the time I saw the jar, it had more than 20 years worth of marbles and was getting close to overflowing. This kind man was still giving away food, helping neighbors, and worshipping faithfully (even if he did sleep during the sermon!), and he did so until the day I did his funeral.

The day I did his funeral, the little country church was overflowing. Everybody in that community knew of him, his love for them, and his love for Jesus. Tears were shed, stories were shared, and there was lots of Juicy Fruit gum passed out, but the seat next to the window on the third row on the right side remained empty, but that seat in heaven, I’m sure was full.

So, when I got back from vacation, four weeks post cancer diagnosis, I counted out 256 marbles. Looking at the course of my type of cancer and its normal prognosis, five years is an ambitious goal, but I’ve always set ambitious goals. I am going to carry around a marble each week to remind me to make every day count, to let small offenses go, to live open handed and open hearted, to live every week for God, and to invest in things that will outlive me. I will do this because at the end of my time I want there to be a party to celebrate my life that is as joyous as the one that I did for a man who lived 93 years with such passion and intensity that it affected an entire community.

What does this mean? It means I am losing my marbles. That time is precious. That if I am not careful I will waste the precious gift of time that God has given me. Funny, when you put a quantitative container with a measurement of your life in front of you, it puts things in perspective. So, how about you? Are you wasting your marbles or investing them in things that matter? You only have so many you know; your marbles are numbered just like mine. You are just assuming that you have more, but at the end of the day, you never know. Grab a marble, put it in your pocket, and let it remind you what is really important, and even more vital, what is not important at all.

God who gives us the gift of life and the gift of time, help me to be truly thankful for every day. Let me not waste it on petty offenses, or meaningless troubles, but be willing to invest it by loving deeply, living passionately, and listening to you intentionally all the days that you give me. In the one who gave his days that we might have eternity, Jesus, I pray, amen. 
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