The Future Demands a Response
This time of year is one of celebration and optimism. Last weekend, I attended my daughter, Katie’s graduation from Duke. It is always a bit melancholy to have such a milestone pass. Inevitably, it triggers a flood of memories and emotions, a lamenting of times past. But, I also see how well my kids are growing into adulthood and no longer have the apprehension I once did. Regardless of the path, I know she will be successful and I find great joy in the world of opportunities in front of her. The fears of adversity can be saved for another day.
The convocation was beautiful and inspiring, even for an old guy like me. The sermon was about dreams, inviting the graduates to not simply accept what is, but to imagine and build their future. Such a notion is not reserved for the newly minted graduates of an institute of higher education alone, it beckons us all.
In a recent sermon, Greg DePriest put it another way, “The future demands a response.” This is not a trivial comment, nor is it a passive statement. The future is always out there until one day it is no more. But the future is not static. Like a series of waves it continues to roll over us, yet a seemingly endless ocean remains on the horizon. With each wave, things on the shore change, something floats up or something is washed away. It can be a storm surge that radically alters our landscape. Regardless, the flow is relentless. Whether we move or not, the tide will rise and fall around us and the world will be inexorably altered.
This is why the present can never last and why we can never hold on to the past. The forces of the future simply in their coming create change. One of the great struggles of life is to determine how to respond in the face of such a challenge. Do we simply accept fate knowing that regardless of our efforts our individual impact seems trivial? Like a molecule of water swept into the sea by the river, we are but a minute part of the whole that makes up existence and our time on earth seems infinitesimal in the sweep of time.
It is understandable that fatalism seems the simple and rational path. It is easy to let ourselves fall into a monotonous rhythm, with each day receding before the next. If we even bother to look up from the routine of our lives, we find time has passed without our having accomplished much, with nothing memorable to hold on to. But something in our nature seems to require more and events like graduation seem to create a spark to enliven us.
God has given each of us our own unique set of gifts. In this temporal world, some talents seem more valuable than others. Yet, the challenge is the same. God admonishes each of us to constantly consider how best to put the talents He gave us to work in this world.
In this perspective, complacency is perhaps the greatest sin we can commit. A failure to confront life is tantamount to a rejection of not only what makes us unique, but of the sacred charge we each received at a price.
We push our children to succeed. We tell them to make a difference. Yet, do we demand as much of ourselves. Do we really believe that we can make a difference or should we be honest and tell our kids not to worry much about what they pursue, it doesn’t really matter in the end? If we truly believe the rhetoric of graduation, then perhaps we should start the process anew ourselves.
I believe each life matters. Life is not a participatory sport in which we all get the same ribbon in the end. It is a competition, not only with others, but with ourselves. It is a battle between what is easy and what is hard. Our task is to give life to those gifts we have been given and make our lives count.
The future demands a response. Do we have the courage to give it a voice?
Dave Clark May 14, 2014