Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Just a quick note before I really get into this post: Sometimes I create links merely to provide more information to you, my readers. The link concerning A. J. Jacobs below is one of those. However, at other times, I create links to things that are much more important. There are several of those in this post, and I hope that you take the time to explore them.

I've been meaning to blog about this wonderful book my wife gave to me for Christmas. It's called The Year of Living Biblically, by A. J. Jacobs. I'm still doing that, but recent events have prompted me to start with this quote:
Day 230. Here’s a sample from a phone conversation I just had with my wife. I was at the Esquire office for a meeting.
“What time are you coming home?” Julie asks.
“Six o’clock, God willing.”
“See you soon.”
“God willing.”
It’s not an atypical snippet. For the last month, I’ve been saying “God willing” at least eighty times a day.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament say this is a good idea. Proverbs advises us, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In the New Testament, James 4:13-15 cautions against saying: “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city,” but “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’” (NAS).
It has become a reflex. Every time I use the future tense, I try to tag on those two words: “God willing.” My mother hates it. She told me I sound like someone who sends in videos to Al Jazeera. And I know my verbal tic comes off as weird in secular settings. But I find it a profound reminder of the murky instability of the future. Yes, I hope to return home at six, but God or fate might have other plans. This, in turn, makes me value the present even more. As James 4:14 says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (NKJ).
I’ve got to try to squeeze all I can out of that vapor.

I received an e-mail from my mother some time after the local news program aired a report on Benjamin Wu. Ben was in my class in high school, and my high school was tiny, so everybody knew everyone else. I doubt if anyone would say that Ben and I were close. But we got along just fine all through school. And after graduation... well, I saw him briefly at our 10 year reunion, and that was about it. I learned that Ben was doing well for himself, that he was a booker for the Webster in Hartford, Connecticut. He was one of the ones who seemed to change the least, even with the addition of a piercing or two. Smiling, quietly self-assured, vibrant... so it was a shock to hear that he'd disappeared.
The next e-mail from Mom came on February 4th. She said that Ben's roommates were there when his iPod washed up and that they were pretty convinced that he had fallen off a cliff during a rain storm and drowned. She also told me when the memorial service would be. I was sure to get there.
Many people said many beautiful things about Ben, and every one of them struck me. I might have had a good friend in Ben, if I'd bothered to reach out. And now I'll never know. The chance has gone, at least in this life. I don't know, maybe it takes a tragedy like this (one that another classmate described as the kind of thing you read about, but doesn't happen to you, not in a small town like we grew up in) to force this kind of epiphany. But there's nothing keeping you from reaching out, folks. I know I will.

Reach out to each other,
Rev. Josh

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Take good care of yourself. I am so sorry about this. You are loved by so many and I'm sure Ben was too.