Bernard Johnson - spiritually speaking column EPN

Bernard Johnson

I’ve been thinking about four things I cannot change. Three of these certainties are less than appealing. One of them is very good. Three of them apply to things I know will change along the way. One of them applies to something that will never change. All of them are worth thinking about.

The first certainty is that most of us will ultimately lose our work. Even if it is not taken from us, we will one day cease to work in the world in the way that provided a living for ourselves and maybe a family. Prudent planning may provide for financial stability in “retirement.” Meaningful volunteer “work” will help in dealing with this loss but the reality is that one day we empty our desk or pack up our tools and cease to do work in the world in the way or ways that defined most of our days. In many ways, it is the loss of identity.

The second certainty we all will face is the loss of wellbeing. Whether quickly or via the slow path of aging we will all lose our health. There is no cure for the common birthday. It can be frustrating when our body begins to wear out. We do not hear or see as well as we’d like. Arthritis and other maladies make it hard to move about. It’s more difficult to digest the garlic toast, meatballs and three-bean salad that we grew to love in an earlier day. It takes longer to do the basic things in life. We begin to see more -ologists and more things happen to us that end in oscopy. There are more trips to the pharmacy and more than a few pills to take. Slowly but surely our vim and vigor slip away. We lose our health.

The third certainty is that we all die. That’s right, one day we take our last breath. Life ends. Sometimes tragically. Sometimes slowly. Most of us have thought about this along the way but we live in necessary denial because to think about it too much is like staring at the sun. It’s too painful. The late Ernest Becker in his magnum opus, "The Denial of Death," said that simply being human is heroic. We are all heroes. He likened getting out of bed in the morning to being one of the soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. They all knew that some of them would die that day, not unlike the truth about everyone who woke up this morning and set about doing what they thought they had to do. In the end, none of us get out of this alive.

The fourth certainty is that we are loved. Herein, I speak from a faith position. In the book I read often the following things are written:

“See what great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)

“. . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God . . .” (Romans 8:37-39)

Can I prove that these things are true? No, I cannot. Do I believe these things are true? Yes, I do. In believing these things I am encouraged by St. Francis of Assisi who said something like “There are some things the heart knows that the head cannot prove.” In that way I know I am loved, and I believe you are, too.

Dr. Bernard E. Johnson shares this space with the Revs. Timothy A. Johnson, Rod Anderson and Trish Sullivan Vanni as well as spiritual writers Nanette Missahgi and Beryl Schewe. “Spiritually Speaking” appears weekly.

 

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