They came from Vienna, Prague, Budapest and other cities across Europe and Asia, each of them carefully selected to participate in the musical adventure that is ACSI’s Honor Choir and Strings festival. And in just four days of non-stop rehearsals and activities, they created music. Their two performances were a testament not only to their individual talent, but to the masterful leadership of Charlie Fuller and Jill Woodhouse. Under their guidance, the forty-some students who were mostly strangers to each other became a living organism, a homogenous family of sound that communicated God’s tender beauty and melodic artistry to their audiences.
Sadly, the weekend was touched by tragedy, as we found out on Saturday that a local missionary, the father of two BFA students, had collapsed and died, at age 43, from a heart attack. He leaves behind a wife and four daughters whose grief is unfathomable to me. As I went about my duties for the remainder of the festival, I pondered the frailty of life. Actress Natasha Richardson, who passed away last week, probably had no inkling as she took ski lessons on a Canadian slope that a fall would lead to her untimely death. And those fifteen students in a German high school not far from here who were massacred by a teenage gunman two weeks ago probably thought, as most teenagers do, that their futures could be counted in decades, not hours and minutes.
I too thought of myself as healthy and unthreatened by medical drama until eight months ago. And then, with July and its second diagnosis, I began to wonder if I’d still be alive in 2009 or if the disease that had broadsided me would be my final challenge. For a few months there, my own mortality became the chord structure of my “recovery symphony.” It motivated my battles and fueled my courage. It also deepened my love for those from whom I was separated and galvanized my passion for the work I’m blessed to do.
Time passed. The urgency of survival faded. And in recent weeks, I began to find that I could get through entire days without contemplating a recurrence of cancer and that I could project myself ten years into the future without wondering if I was being overly optimistic. But with the illusion of safety came a paling of the intensity of my desire to make each moment count, a laziness that made me less intentional and purposeful. I figured I’d been given a new lease on life and that there’d be time–time to reconnect and to fix and to grow and to dismantle and to learn and to love and to exhort… But there are no guarantees. The death of a forty-three year old husband and father who probably had no suspicion that his end was near has caused me to consider again the frailty and unpredictability of my life. Am I living as if my hours are counted? And am I living in the reality that every day is precious and that my end may not come with ample warning?
Would you join me in praying for this grieving young family (the Browns)? And would you also join me in praying that we’ll all begin to live as though tomorrow were a luxury we can’t count on? I’m not advocating fatalism—there is no strength or victory in that. I’m advocating intentional, joyful living in submission to the God who numbers our days and fills each one with potential for good.