Sixteen summers ago my husband was finishing up his first year of seminary and we didn’t have any children yet. We worked for the seminary and college but our responsibilities ended when the students left for the summer and we had 2 months before they came back. It was the first and only time in our lives that we actually had time AND a little money to do what we wanted. So we decided to take a cross-country trip. He had been out west as a kid but my family wasn’t the traveling or vacationing type. In college I traveled doing some ministry work along the east coast and took several mission trips overseas, but rarely had ever been on a real vacation.
So we took off. The day our job responsibilities ended we jumped into our already loaded car and didn’t came home until the night before we had to report back to work. We only had about $10 left in our pockets but we had a lifetime of memories and find ourselves still telling stories from that adventure. We camped, stayed in cheap hotels and crashed at friend’s homes. We ate sandwiches and homemade beef jerky and fast food. We traveled though 28 states and visited a dozen state parks.
One thing on my “to-do” list was The Grand Canyon. He had seen it before, but this was my first visit. From the parking lot we had to walk a short distance before we could actually see the canyon. He had me close my eyes and walked me up to the edge of the canyon and put me where I had a great view and only then would he let me open my eyes. I will never forget that moment. It literally took my breath away. I knew the Grand Canyon was GRAND but could not imagine the vastness and depth of a place like that. It was stunning….and slightly terrifying. Beautiful to behold, but canyons are dangerous and have to be navigated with care. We took a hike down a well-worn path but entering a canyon is not for the faint of heart because it takes a lot of work to get out of one.
Last Tuesday my husband found out that he had Melanoma skin cancer. On Wednesday I had an accident in the kitchen that left me with some nasty 2nd degree burns the fingers of my dominate hand. Those burns were serious enough that I found myself at The Burn Center on Friday because doctors here were afraid I might lose some mobility in my hand. On Monday we met with a surgeon at the Cancer Institute. In a period of 7 days we faced possible life-altering events that slapped us both in the face with our own mortality.
It now seems most likely that the end result will be that my hand will completely heal, and more importantly that his Melanoma was caught in the early stages, is slow-growing and thin. The follow up surgery should be the end of it. That’s the best scenario we could hope for in both cases. But I feel a lot like I did the day I saw the Grand Canyon. I feel like we have been walked right up to the edge of something vast and terrifying, but was spared actually walking into the canyon. I’m still trying to catch my breath, but I am so incredibly grateful. Some folks have to walk deep into that canyon and struggle to find a way out. We are beyond blessed.
After looking into a canyon and seeing its vastness, if gives cause to look at the things around you differently. Husband says to me as we sit in one of the waiting rooms, “We have to live every day like it’s our last. We aren’t promised tomorrow. The years in front of us are now fewer than the years behind us.” My response is this: “Then let’s live them better than we have ever lived before.”
We’ve been married for 19 years. After that many years we sometimes stop looking at the other one with the same wonder we did when we were young. We get busy living life and raising kids, but standing on the edge of a canyon that could have taken him away from us…I am looking at him differently than I did last week. Does he drive me crazy sometimes? Yes! And I’m quick to return the favor. But he never says an unkind word to me. Never. He works hard to provide and I never wonder if he’s coming home. He loves Jesus and will sacrifice for what is right and good. He still makes me laugh and will stay up and Netflix binge with me if I ask nicely. He’s my biggest fan and he would take a bullet for me if I needed him too. And this weekend he learned a new skill and made pancakes for the first time in his life just so I wouldn’t hurt my hand.
I think the first step to living our days better than we ever have is to recognize what we actually have right in front of us. Is it easy to focus on what we don’t have or what drives us crazy? Yes, of course. But that is not the way of Grace. That is a trap of our enemy. Stop. Think of what you have. Did you eat today? Is there a roof over your head? Clothes to wear? Do you love someone who loves you back? Then make the most of it. Hug them close. Tell them how you feel. Be kind. Show grace. Live every day like it’s your last and live better than you ever have before. You will never regret living a thankful life.
Photo credit: visualhunt