A Life of Significance

My next CT scan, John O’Leary, Pastor Rob’s sermon this morning. Interesting cast of characters to trigger awareness about the rapid passage of time in my life. And yet, in combination, they have done just that.

Eight days from now, I will go to the cancer center for my next CT scan. Four days later Brandi and I will meet with the oncologist to discuss the results. It is my hope that I will hear that what is left of my right kidney looks good, that there are no new signs of cancer, that the drug I am taking is keeping the cancer at bay. But I know that hope is just that and cancer is unpredictable. And, well, so is life.

John O’Leary inspires me and his book, On Fire, is amazing. John was a young boy when he decided to copy the antics of neighborhood boys and play with gasoline and fire in his family’s garage. Burned on 100% of his body and given almost no chance of surviving, John manages to not only survive, but thrive. He spends five months in the hospital and has to have his fingers amputated. After the hospital, comes the painstaking work of rebuilding his young life. But his narrative is not a solitary tale, but the story of so many people who showed up in his life. These are people on his medical care team, his family, his community, and even Jack Buck, the Baseball Hall of Fame sportscaster for the St Louis Cardinals. As I listened to the book in my car this week, I heard John discuss how we assess our life. He asked this question: “Do you lead a life of success or a life of significance?” He explored the fleeting nature of success and how it leaves no lasting mark on this world. But significance comes when we focus our life on showing up and making a difference in a meaningful way. Hearing John’s words moved me and was what he calls, an inflection point. By societal standards, my life is successful. Lovely home, strong marriage, great kids, successful career. But is what I offer the world significant?

Then Pastor Rob, hit it out of the park this morning. Preaching on Micah 6:8, the message explored what it means to love mercy and do justice. Pastor Rob defined mercy as responding to others in times of need and he defined justice as a deeper process that changes the backdrop of a person’s life; or the fabric of a community; or the landscape of our world. I believe I am merciful. Are You Hungry, the ministry Brandi and I provide for the homeless is a ministry of mercy. But how does it show justice? How have we influenced the backdrop of a person, the fabric of a community, the landscape of our world? I want to believe that being seen, being connected, and cared for by another person goes deeper than simply being fed. If so, it is a seed I may never see come to fruition.

Please let me be clear. I am not minimizing the ways in which I contribute to people or my community. However, I know the reality of cancer and I want my days to include reflection. I want to evaluate whether I live a life of success or a life of significance. I want to ask myself if I do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. I wish I could tie this post up with a neat little bow of wisdom and inspiration. Instead, I can say this is a post of process, exploration, and faith. I invite you into that process too.

For more posts by Julie Barthels, go to: www.idratherlovelifethanhatecancer.com

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