Thursday, 11 October 2012

Finishing well

I have a confession to make.  A confession which I am going to pin the blame full and square upon my parents.

I am thinking my children may have a lot which they will pin the blame upon ME, in years to come.


I blame my parents for the fact that I enjoy looking around graveyards.  I have a skewed memory of how my parents used to drag us around graveyards, when we were young, to show us the graves of people that we had no interest in. (In reality, they didn't do it that much....) I wish I had appreciated more at the time, of the significance of some of the graves we visited.  But, when you are 14, and don't know much about Church history, and you have to get out of an air-conditioned vehicle into the hot and humid air in Princeton, New Jersey, to see the grave of one Jonathan Edwards, you are not exactly ecstatic.

HOW I wish I had known more about were I was, and appreciated WHERE I was that day.  Princeton. Wow.

Surprisingly, I now enjoy visiting graveyards.  I think that home educating my children has given me a love of history, and there is so much to soak up in an old graveyard.  Yes.  Must be an old one, otherwise it is just a little strange.

I found an old, ruined Church building with its own old, run-down graveyard.  I got my feet thoroughly soaked as I traipsed through the wet, overgrown grass, gazing with interest at the inscriptions on the grave stones.

I didn't have time to look at them all, but I was pleased to find one that may have been the oldest one there.

This was the back of it.  Most likely the coat of arms for the family buried there, but it was very hard to read some of the inscription.

I digitally remastered some of the inscription, so you could see the date on it.

Well, SORT of see the date on it.

Ok, well maybe it's actually hard to see at all.

Trust me, it says 1750.

That one was not the one that captured my interest, though.  There are two others which did that.

The first one is this.

The inscription reads thus...

"who ended all her troubles and sorrows"

It's a sad inscription to sum up your life.  Undoubtedly, she had warrant for feeling sad.  If you read the earlier portion of the stone, she had 2 children who died in infancy, which was not uncommon in those days. That would be sorrow indeed.  It made ME sad just thinking about it.

The next grave stone was a lot easier to read.

"She was a happy woman"

I am acutely aware that circumstances of life can totally transform how we live our life.  Some have an "easier" life, and some have trial after trial. 

But, we are those who love and belong to the Lord.  Job had the most devastating series of events that I can think of.  He had nearly ALL his possessions torn away from him in a short space of time, including his children.  It was HOW he dealt with these "troubles and sorrows" that summed up his life.  He didn't curse God, he didn't complain.  He calmly accepted what God allowed in his life.  And, God blessed him for his faithfulness.

Ultimately, our response to trials is of great reflection upon the relationship we have with the Lord.  If we are walking close to Him, and trusting Him fully to plan out our lives perfectly, then we will have a response that is characterised by joy and calm acceptance.  I am not suggesting that we do not have sorrow when we have trials.  Tears and sorrow are part of our humanity, and Christ Himself wept at Gethsemane and at the tomb of Lazarus.

It's how it affects our life as a whole - our nature and personality - that counts more than anything else.

A dear friend of ours was tragically killed in a road traffic accident 9 years ago.  The one thing that will remain ingrained in my mind for ever is how his wife dealt with the tragedy.  She said to person after person "God is good ALL the time".  That knowledge gave her a peace that you could almost touch with your very hands.  She had sorrow.  She was utterly devastated to lose her husband, but she was able to see God's hand in it all, in ways that were truly amazing.  She loved the Lord so much, that it was HIM she saw in the trial, instead of looking to the circumstances. 

Reading these inscriptions got me thinking, though.  How will *I* be remembered after I am dead?  Will I be so eaten up by difficult circumstances that people will think only of my troubles and sorrow that have ended, rather than the life of praise to the Lord that I have lived?  Will it be my negative spirit, my moaning words, my impatient snappiness with my children, or my grumpy attitude that is written in stone?  

We should live a life that could be characterised by the  inscription to the woman on the second stone.  She started her life in Australia, married a Scottish Airman who fought in the Second World War, and she died in Scotland.  We don't know of the trials she may have lived through, but whatever her life was, she was so happy that they wrote it on her tomb stone!!!

Now, THAT'S the kind of life I want to live.  I want people to see that I am so satisfied in my Saviour, that I am happy.  Happy when times are good, and joyful when times are tough.  No matter what the Lord allows in my life, I want it to be characterized y a joyful life.  I know that there are some of you that know that I can be far from that.  I get stressy with my children.  I get short with my lovely husband.  I get impatient with other people.  It's an area that needs work, but I do try and be a happy person.  I have so much to be joyful and happy for that I have no excuse whatsoever for NOT being happy. 

Paul, when speaking to the Elders at Ephesus said this...

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy,"
Acts 20:24

He had not had an easy road whilst following the Lord, and he would end his life imprisoned in Rome.  But, he knew that no matter what may lie ahead, he needed to finish his course with joy.  

Pau said, again, in Corinthians 

"I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation."

Not just a teeny bit of joy, but EXCEEDINGLY joyful in ALL tribulation.  That is some confession, that I can certainly not make. 

 "Rejoice evermore." 
1Thessalonians 5:16

"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." 
 Philippians 4:4  

You can't get any more specific than THAT!! 


I truly hope, that when my race is over, that it could be written on my grave stone that *I* was a happy woman. A life characterized by my joy in the Lord, and not my circumstances. 

Until then, I will keep smiling. :-)

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