Bravely Facing “Fleeting” Time “with a Heart for any Fate”
Beach, Corea, Maine
Watching this sweet child racing the waves, flying like a fairy, building sand castles and enjoying the magic and awe of this beach and some other fantastical, ethereal place in her mind, one envies such pure, innocent, boundless imagination. She frolics unencumbered by the questions and worries of politicians, managers, philosophers, and theologians, unaware of the chaos and cynicism of the culture she is inheriting, and unhindered by the nearsightedness of daily routines and worry, the traumas of surviving, and the fear of loss. She is free to enjoy the present without the restrictions imposed by reason, logic, and knowledge!
Prayfully, her imaginative energies will mature into discovering her value and giftedness, the wonders of her universe including the astonishing beauty of this world, a reverential awe of the transcendent, and the purpose and the eternality of her soul.
Henry W. Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” is a poem containing the well known quote: “ Life is real! life is earnest! /And the grave is not its goal; /Dust thou art, to dust returnest/ Was not spoken of the soul.” Recognizing that there is more to life than our material existence, that purpose lies in a destiny somewhere beyond our earthly experiences, he said that “not enjoyment, and not sorrow/ is our destined end or way,” that human life must be faced by acting “Heart within, and God o’erhead!”
We struggle in this material world to find pleasure and fulfillment despite disappointments, failures, losses, and suffering. Scripture teaches us that there is a sovereign will for our lives, an enabling divine power by which we can live, and a faith which gives us victory over those things that can consume us. (1 John 5:4) God is the One who redeems us, our works, and our circumstances. He is all about redemption and will make the most of us and our messes through the Good News of Christ and the empowerment of the Gospel. (Romans 8:28-30)
Longfellow’s poem contains a reminder and a thoughtful exhortation about fulfilling our purposes: “Time is fleeting” and “Let us, then be up and doing/ With a heart for any fate…” That latter adage is undoubtedly the source of my college roommate’s frequent mantra that his father had taught him as a young boy. As he rolled out of his bed for early morning classes, he was motivated by the thought: ” I must be up and be doing for what can be sadder than to stop at the foot of the ladder!” But what does “up and doing “ mean according to Jesus? When he was asked, Jesus defined what it means to do God’s work: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29). Belief in Christ and his teaching is fundamental to the Christian context. Believing faith, trusting in the redemptive work of Christ, evolves into the practice of faith or living out personal circumstances with the selfless graces of Christ and his Gospel e.g. love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, integrity, generosity, patience, and peace. Such Faith leaves “Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main/A forlorn and shipwrecked brother/Seeing, shall take heart again.”
However, faith looks beyond good works, social justice and immediacy to a spiritual journey and intimacy and future with God with great confidence in the declaration of “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?…But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1( Corinthians 15:55-57 )
God has done all that is possible to give us meaning and purpose and power to bravely face “fleeting time,” to embrace it “with a heart for any fate,” and to live in hopeful expectation.