*Posted by Kirk Spencer
Several years ago, one of my students and his wife were expecting. We prayed for the baby throughout the semester. It was their first and they were so excited. At the birth, it was discovered that the infant suffered from an irreversible medical condition that would soon take his life. They held their baby for six hours and then they had to give him back. What some may think an unbearable tragedy—so many months wasted, so many years lost—was not… It was something else. It was a supernatural celebration of the precious gift of six hours. I will never forget it. For me, it was an event beyond all philosophical and ethical debate. I witnessed peace that went beyond all human understanding—a peace that allowed simple gratitude for a gift given without reference to any other conditions or expectations. In the service for this little life, I watched the recorded highlights of six hours of closeness. It was obvious that this family lived fully the precious time they had together. I will never forget the hugs and the smiles and the timeless joy. There was no hint of despair or ingratitude. I don’t know how to explain it. My head (and my heart) has no category for it. But I can tell you this… When I walked out of that chapel, into the bright cool air, I had never felt more gratitude. I saw my life in a way I had never seen it before. God has given me so much! (And all I seem to do is complain.)
I have often thought that this small family found so much joy in such little time by simply believing (and living) this simple truth: Everything we possess is a gift from our loving Creator. If I only take one breath, that is one breath more than I deserve. It is easy, especially today, to assume we deserve something instead of nothing. And when we don’t get what we think we deserve we waste our time (literally) complaining. We often miss this tragic fact: The ultimate waste of time that even wastes the very gifts that God has given is ingratitude. On the other hand, in gratitude we find a way back to the timeless joy we were looking for anyway.