Friday, August 11, 2006

40 Feet of Meaning

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We used to live in a 1,100 sq ft home on 2nd Avenue in Corsicana, TX. We were very thankful for the house, but it was definitely nothing special. The house was drafty, creaky and roughly the size of a sardine can, but the rent was low and it was a good fit for us at the time. It had a particularly interesting kitchen, and that was the room where I did some serious pondering about life and death.

There was no dishwasher in this joint, so each evening I would stand at the kitchen sink, look out the window, and hand wash the dishes. The view from that tiny window was profound and disturbing, and I'll never forget what it taught me. You see, just beyond that kitchen glass - spread across a 40 foot span - lay a grassy front lawn, the busiest street in town and a somewhat eerie cemetary. It was a seriously strange view, but at least the neighbors across the street were quiet!

There were three specific meanings associated with each of these very different changes in scenery. The grassy lawn symbolized the safety, fun, comfort and simplicity of childhood. The busy street signified the responsibility, risk, challenge and frantic pace of adult life. This thought was only intensified by the fact that we were constantly afraid that our kids would escape our view, if only for a moment, and run into that busy street. I guess that could be symbolic of the varitable car wreck that most families experience when their kids become teenagers. The cemetary vividly represented the hopeless, dark, frightening and inevitable nature of death. These were the thougths that would run through my mind while taking in life's panorama from that silly window. Pretty deep stuff for a guy washing dishes, eh?

It was at that point in my life when I began to realize that there were no divisions between the sacred and the secular. All of life, whether a busy street, a cemetary or an episode of Spongebob Squarepants tells something about a greater story. I see it at the movies, or in a sporting event or at a family picnic. There's no such thing as a moment void of greater meaning.

Does that mean that we walk through life looking for "deep" stuff to the point that we can't enjoy a brainless moment while zoning out in our easy chairs to mindless sit-coms? I hope not, as that's one of my favorite past-times. I thnk it means that we have to open our eyes, even in seemingly ordianry moments, to something bigger. Pastor and author Erwin McManus says that most people he knows want to be people characterized by great faith. Unfortunatly, says McManus, most people "resist the tedious journey of being faithful." The journey of faithfulness, in my estimation, begins with perspective. It seems to me that the true Christian perspective is one that sees the panorama of life and is compelled to be faithful because the stakes are so high. After all, life and death are sometimes only 40 feet away.

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