Originally published Tuesday, 17 June 2014.
I once attended a flag lowering ceremony at the American cemetery in Normandy. It was a powerful and heavy moment, seeing men who survived the second World War stand in salute and give honor to the fellow servicemen who died alongside them.
I have been to the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery, at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The crowd was quiet and motionless; hearts were stirred. I've listened to the haunting melody of "Taps" played by an Army bugler while my grandfather was laid in the ground. I've attended the funeral of a fallen police officer, a local hero, in whose honor the entire city appeared to remember.
But when I went to the funeral of my great-great Aunt a couple of weeks ago, I was moved to tears in a more profound and deeper way. Not just because she was my relative whom I loved. Not just because it was the loss of someone I knew personally. And it wasn't because she was someone famous who had done great things. No, it was because she had lived a quiet life of faith.
Ninety-eight years is a long time to live in this world. She often wondered why God kept her here so long. As I listened to the testimony of those in attendance, I heard stories of people who were influenced and blessed by her. She hadn't been to church in decades because of her health but the leaders of her church came to her home and worshipped with her. She blessed them with her kind heart, her positive spirit, and her steadfast faith. Her grandson, who spent much of his life battling the internal wounds and scars of his heart, spoke of her constant prayers and unconditional love for him. She was a prayer warrior and cried out to God on behalf of her loved ones. Always generous, she sacrificed and gave what she had to those around her. I too had my own stories and memories of a woman who didn't complain about her life but looked to God for strength and endurance.
In a day and age where instant celebrity and fame is possible and where even Christian celebrity is sought after, it seems like it would be failure were we not to do something huge in our lives. We strive to make our mark, to do something significant and meaningful for the Kingdom. But sometimes, what is most meaningful is living out our life, no matter how simple it may be, to the glory of God.
Sometimes it's living a quiet life of faith, like my Aunt, who battled pancreatic cancer for decades, outliving the four year term of life the doctor's gave her (In fact, outliving the doctor's who treated her!). Homebound and sick more often than not, she didn't grumble or complain. Instead of wasting time, she prayed. From her humble post-war home in East Baltimore, she blessed others by radiating the joy of the Lord.
Most of us will not do something big in our lives. We will not be famous. We won't find the cure to something or invent an amazing technology or perform on stage to the roar of thousands. But we can share the love of Christ with the people we see day in and day out. We can bless others in hospitality and share what we've been given. We can pray on our knees without ceasing. We can love and serve our family without grumbling. We can accept each chapter of our story with gratitude and grace, trusting the hand who wrote it. We can radiate faith in all we do, in our daily chores and responsibilities, in loving our family, in working hard, and in our kindness toward others.
"That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Timothy 2:2).
As I looked at the outer shell of my Aunt Annie lying there at the front of the funeral home, hands folded over her lap, beautiful and at peace in her sea foam green organza dress, I thought, "she spent up every moment of those ninety-eight years." Nothing was wasted. If those of us gathered there that day were any indication, her quiet life of faith left a lasting impression.
Most of us will not make huge waves in life, but we can make a small splash, a ripple of faith that spreads and radiates out to those around us. We don't know how many years we have. We aren't promised a specific number of years and more likely than not, we will not live to see ninety-eight. But with the years we do have, will we use them to bring God glory in all things?