Are you living an abundant life ?
What do you remember about April 19th, twenty years ago? For most Americans old enough to remember, that day is a day that “lives in infamy” like September 11th and December 7th. Most Americans remember that day as a day of tremendous grief and sadness, for we watched in horror as scenes of the Oklahoma City bombing unfolded on the television screens before us. And we found ourselves asking the question, “What kind of perverted ideology would justify such indiscriminate evil and violence?” The most enduring image from that day was captured in the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Firefighter Captain Chris Fields cradling one-year-old Baylee Almon in his arms. That heartbreaking image is unforgettable. Yet, I had an entirely different experience on that day, twenty years ago.
On that day, twenty years ago, over 1200 miles away, I had the privilege to cradle in my arms another infant. You see, the morning of April 19th, 1995, Janice was giving birth to our youngest son, Jonathan Zachary. For our family, it was a day filled with great joy and hope, and gratitude to God for this wonderful new life. As Janice and I held our newborn son that day, we wondered about his life and his future, and our thoughts were filled with hope and optimism. What gifts and talents would he have? What would his personality be like? Who would he marry? What would be his life’s work?
So, on April 19th every year, I am reminded of both great tragedy and great joy. The juxtaposition of these two conflicting realities is sometimes hard to reconcile. Yet, in many ways, I have come to understand that this is actually a picture of life. We would all like life to be simple and to go smoothly all the time. However, life often doesn’t work this way. I have found that typically, at any given moment in my life, there is a mixture of both good and bad at work. All that is happening is not good, and all that is happening is not bad either. We often get both, running alongside one another like parallel tracks, at the same time.
We live in a broken world, but thankfully, we have a savior who has not left us alone to face it. He encouraged us to pray daily, “Let My kingdom come, and My will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” He asked us to pray this way, precisely because His will was often not being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” So, pain, trial, difficulty, even tragedy are a part of life on this broken planet. However, one of the keys to enjoying the “abundant life” Jesus spoke of is learning to love God and rejoice in His blessings, often in the midst of trials and pain. That is, great pain and great joy can, and often do, exist together. And I have learned to take the words of Paul to heart (Phil. 4:8), “whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…dwell on these things..” There is so much negativity in the world that wants to capture our attention, but Paul encourages us here to “dwell on” those things that are lovely, pure, admirable and of “good report.”
So, today, as I remember the Oklahoma City bombing, and as I pray for those still directly impacted by those events, I also celebrate life. I celebrate the life of my son, Jon. And I thank God for his life, and his future that is still yet to be written.