Update: November 1, 2015
I recently took a “dump run” with rotten boards from my forty year old fence. While driving in my pickup to the landfill I was thinking about ownership. I own my house and over the years have made improvements designed to retain, or hopefully increase, its value. I decided to replace the worn out sections of the back fence. The conversation in my head migrated from ownership of my possessions to ownership of my life. We live, and we make decisions, as if we own our lives. Often we view our lives like we view “our things”. The circumstances of life for Connie and me cause me to reflect on how much (or little) of our lives we really own.
As a Christian I have some appreciation that my life is a gift from God. I know that every breath I take and every beat of my heart is a gift from God, who created me. If my life is a gift from God, does that make him the owner of my life? If he is the owner does he get to make decisions about the start and the end of my life, just as I decide on the improvements in my house? Those are risky questions, leaving me in a potential intellectual quagmire. During my drive home I remembered these verses:
“Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have the right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” (Romans 9:20,21)
One of Connie’s theme verses implies the same:
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)
Yes, it does seem that God makes the big decisions, just like an owner. I concluded that to honour God I have to remove all notions that my life is my own. I am not sovereign and I’m not omniscient. I don’t get to do just anything I want with “my life”.
How then shall I view “my” life? If I don’t own it, then I’m a steward of the life that God, in his grace, has given to me. That means that my life is an assignment from God to me. The decisions that I get to make (and there are many) need to be measured against his glory and my desire to honour him. What about Connie’s life? If God has a purpose in all of his decisions about life’s duration then nothing is arbitrary. Her cancer is not arbitrary, or accidental, but must be permitted by God who is sovereign and good. He is sovereign and good in my life as well as in hers, even when our relative health seems unfair and inequitable.
If the plane I’m flying on this evening blows up before landing in Toronto, God would still be sovereign and good. If I have an accident on the drive to London tonight that leaves me in a coma, God would still be sovereign and good. If I have a sudden aneurism that takes my life, God would still be sovereign and good. God owns my life and determines all my days. There is so much about this that I don’t understand. But our lives – Connie’s and mine – are gifts from God to be stewarded. We’ve tried to steward them well, but now even more so.
I’m on my way to a Compassion Canada board meeting, and with Connie’s full blessing. Being away allows me to reflect on her unwavering support of all my endeavours, and tears fill my eyes! From the beginning of our marriage she has embraced my inclinations and dreams (God given and selfish). She supported my desire to go to seminary with three kids in tow, and at financial cost to her. She’d earlier embraced my dream to complete a B.A. at university, while she parented two children alone. As difficult as it was at the time she released me to lead a student team to Italy, while she stayed home with five active kids. Without reservation she’s supported my involvement with various ministries. At church she has unequivocally cheered me on, regardless of the cost to her. In recent years she has joined me on my Compassion adventures to East Africa, then to Thailand, and recently to Peru, while her quiet preference would have been a cruise or an encore trip to Hawaii. Those two promises remain unfulfilled and it breaks my heart. She has not considered her life as her own.
By faith I believe that God is able to bring his good out of every circumstance, and for his glory. We don’t have to like the circumstances. We don’t have to understand or agree with his ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). My life is an assignment given to me. There are parts of it that I don’t like but perhaps figuring it out is part of what it means to “number our days”. A sincere thank you for all your prayers, including those of you beyond our church family who follow these updates. Please pray that both Connie and I will be courageous disciples of Christ as we live out the assignments he has for each of us.
Coming to terms with God’s Ownership,
Ian (on behalf of Connie)
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