Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Meaning of a Life

I learned something in Sunday school this weekno, it is more accurate to say I was reminded of a fundamental truth that is foreign to the western focus on ‘what I do, as testified to by what I produce’ as how to define an accomplished life {for those who aren’t Sunday school aficionados, hang in there, this will come back around}

My class is groping its way through Hebrewsone of the meatier books in the New Testament that explores many of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of faith. Chapter 11 profiles some of the flannel board famous those bible stories with the characters and props cleverly cut out in flannel in full 2-dimensional glory and retold by children's Sunday school teachers until the stories become more like fables than truth; Noah with his ark, Jonah and his whale, Moses and his staff.

These OT ‘stars’ are remembered for the remarkable things they didbuild an ark-Noah; build a nation-Abraham; part the sea and lead his people-Moses. Their value and worth came from the things are famous for. This is true for many, if not all, historical figures, such as Paul Revere’s ride, Nero’s violin, or Marie Antoinette’s head. Again, their actions and/or accomplishments equate their greatness.

Back to chapter 11 of Hebrews, verse 13: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. So, here it is, centuries after they lived and, instead of their accomplishments as the benchmark of their lives, it is their faiththeir internal world that truly gives value to their lives.

I struggle constantly with the value of my life as I live it today. Women are held up as the ultimate multi-taskers: bringing home the bacon while looking fabulous and simultaneously juggling family and civic responsibilitiesnot to mention ‘finding oneself,’ through interests and hobbies. My mom is a nurse, and when she graduated from high school, women had few choices for careers; nurse, teacher, and housewife (and certainly, the career ended when the babies came.) I wonder whether my mom might have chosen to be a research scientist, or a wildlife biologist, or a chef, if she were born in my generation. I certainly was on the track to ‘having it all’ before MS interfered. I had a fabulous career, nice house, active in my church, busy family lifepretty much headed towards the ‘Modern American Woman Dream Life.’

Now, I can no longer do many of the simple things that I used to enjoy: baking, cooking, brushing my teethlet alone the career path I was on or any of the outward things that gave my life such richness and variety. When I am asked today, what I do, I haven’t had much of an answer, at least one that I took satisfaction in.

Thanks to Hebrews 11, I am reminded that even the lions of the Old Testament, who lived truly remarkable lives, are better remembered for their faith than as 2-dimensional character simplistically played out in flannel. I can live my quiet life with integrity, focusing on what truly matters: faith, family, friendship. Mourn what I have lost and confidently move into a new perspective of how to define what accomplishment isa life well-lived.

3 comments:

Stuff could always be worse said...

This is so true and well written, I should print it. I agree with all, I still try to do everything with a wheelchair. I cannot, of course, do much of what I used to do. I call it a new Stage of Life.
Kim

timmAY said...

Hi Janine,

I noticed that you're dealing with Secondary Progressive MS and I wanted to let you know that I work with BioMS Medical, a small company in Canada developing a new treatment for SPMS. I thought you might be interested in some more information on the company and the treatment. You may be interested in more information for personal reasons.

The treatment is in Phase III trials right now and looks promising. Patients only need to go in for an injection twice a year, and data has already shown that the drug delays progression of the disease up to five years.

What medication are you currently using?

As a side note, the story behind the company is cool - the founder's wife was diagnosed with MS years ago and he set out to find a cure for her. He found this experimental treatment at the University of Alberta, she's been on the drug for almost 15 years, and he founded BioMS Medical.

Thought it might be up your ally. Let me know if you'd like to learn more. I can send you some info. Thanks.

Tim

timmAY said...

P.S. To get in touch with me, email is: tpitta@schwartz-pr.com