Carol Hallman: The brevity of life
“I’m in a hurry to get things done / Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun / All I really gotta do is live and die / But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.” Lyrics by Alabama
This past week I was reminded how much this is me. I also imagine that this might be you too. I was admonished by my doctor to not speak until service on Ash Wednesday. I had done a number on my vocal chords due to a combination of allergies, lack of sleep and burning the candle at both ends. At first I chafed at being unable to speak (even though I am comfortable with silence) because there was so much to get done but as reality settled in I began to take some deep breaths and I began to look around and I began to see that being in a hurry caused me to miss many things.
It made me miss the gentle touch of the breeze as I walked my sheltie Indy down the road, the croaking of the frogs in the creek. It made me look at each day as a day I need to “get through” rather than as a day I should enjoy.
Ash Wednesday is traditionally a reminder of the shortness of life, to remind us that we were created from dust and to dust we shall return. Dust and Ashes mark our faces, reminding us that none of us get out alive and even the oldest among us is only here for a short period of time.
It was apropos that my period of silence happened right before Ash Wednesday. For it reminded me that we are to be fully present in each moment of each day. We only have so many days; we only have one life. We can hurry our way through and miss much along the way, or we can take time to stop and smell the roses (even if they do make us sneeze!).
As Ash Wednesday reminds us of the brevity of life, it made me think that maybe by letting go of all those things that keep us from rejoicing in the beauty and majesty of the world around us we might find the true path God wants us to walk. We are moving from winter into spring, maybe we’re already there, at least the thermometer thinks so … our seasons are brief as our lives and yet I rejoice when I see the budding of the trees, and the shoots coming up from the earth (not so much the allergies that are part of this).
Indeed we are dust, but we are earthly dust and perhaps we are indeed star dust as one theologian has posited emerging from God’s amazing creativity. We are part of a holy adventure that began billions of years ago. One song says “we are but dust on the sunbeam (God) holds in the palm of (God’s) hand.” We may be here for just a short time but even so we are part of God’s love that has been unfolding since creation and will continue long after we’re gone.
So this Lent, I plan on considering the lilies and the birds the air. I will enjoy the beauty of the world around me. In some liturgies, the imposition of ashes is accompanied by the words, “repent and believe the gospel.” I will endeavor to embrace these words — I plan to repent and believe — to “repent,” turn around, live more in the moment, appreciating God’s grandeur, and believing the good news — the embodied, yet ever-lasting, gospel of beauty, wonder, and grace — the good news of walking with beauty all around me.
Carol Hallman is resident minister at First UCC, 207 W. Horah St.