life, death, and a very little thing

I've always loved cemeteries. They are beautiful, quiet, profound. I love the way the giant trees stand sentinel over the names of so many people who have lain almost-forgotten by the loud world that is constantly buzzing by - and yet who each shifted the world, even in only the tiniest way, by being part of it for a little while.

Every Memorial Day weekend, I try to spend an hour walking through the cemetery that sits across the road from where I do my grocery shopping every week. It's usually a sunny midday right after I've been to church, and I walk among the headstones with a few other people who have come to pay respects. The flags ripple lightly in the breeze, and the whole expanse of these countless graves is dotted with color - of flowers, of flags, even of balloons. I like to think that today, at least, those who so quietly left this loud world behind are remembered.

Today was not much different. Sunny and warm, with a clear blue sky held up by ancient trees, and that uncanny graveside hush. But this time, I had just come from the hospital - where I met my hours-old niece for the first time.

Life, death.

It makes me feel rather small to reflect on how, minute by minute, new lives are born into the world, while at the very same time other lives are coming to their ends. How fleeting it all looks when I stand under the trees and read the names and dates that quantify countless strangers' momentary earthly lives. And it becomes a lot harder to fret about small, stupid things when faced with the reality of how tiny even the "big" things are, in light of eternity.

Jesus said, "Do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. . . . Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?" (Luke 12:22, 25-26) This whole chapter always hits me hard, but that last question is the most humbling of all: If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?

Can we even imagine having the power to willfully add hours to our lives? Wouldn't having that kind of sovereignty be the pinnacle of human achievement - the elusive Fountain of Youth? And yet Jesus calls this a very little thing.

And to the One who sits on the Throne of eternity, with a view that spans from eternity past to eternity future, of course that's just what it is. A very, very little thing.

Life, death. It is small. We are small.

But lest we get lost in the smallness - lest this reminder of the ever-cycling nature of life leave us hopeless - Christ gives the greatest reassurance of all, right in the middle of the same passage: "Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!" (Luke 12:25)

Life, death. Food, clothing. Ravens, humans. It is all so very small - and yet it is all important in the eyes of God.

His view may span eternity, but His eye watches over the sparrow.

We are small, but we are not too small.

And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?
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Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.