On one of those blissfully chilling nights
in January, as I stood gazing into a beautiful
blackboard sky, spotted with stars as clear
as sunlight passing through a glass of crystal,
my heart was filled with the realities of life.
As though God Himself had whispered to
my weariness of spirit, and fragility soul,
that life, my life, was a passing shadow.
I thought about my past, and that inner
voice asked me if it were possible for me
to change one thing, one moment, of my past.
No, of course not, no one change any part of
the past, the good or the bad of it. I thought of
the future and the words of Carl Sandburg came
to mind, “ No one has a jump on the future.”
Truth spoke to my heart, to my reason, that
there were less sunsets ahead of me than behind
me, and that, in the winter of my days, that time
would not allow me the luxury of planning great
and wonderful things, which probably would never
come to be. The past was gone, unchangeable, the
future, uncertain. But that I was certain of two things:
the present moment, and what I could do with it,
and that I, one day, like all others, was going to die.
The thought of my passing did not frighten me, but
sobered me, awakened me and roused me as much
as the chilling January wind rushing through me.
“I want to finish well” I said to the good God.
What I had done was done. I could not change one
single thing, “And Lord, I do not know how long
You have given me before my race here is run.”
“But here I am God, I have this beautiful winter night,
beneath a billion stars of light shining from heaven.”
And as though an answer, the inner whisperings deep
inside of me, where God does His work in all of us,
reminded me of the words of St. Paul, the Apostle,
“Do not be conformed to the ways of this world any
longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Then I remembered the words of Christ, Himself,
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all the rest will be given to you as well. Do not worry
for tomorrow, for the day has troubles enough of its own.”
No burning bush that night. No heavenly visions.
Truth spoken to my heart, in the secret place where
the natural meets the supernatural, when the veil between
heaven and earth is pulled back for just a moment, and
our gracious and merciful Father whispers to His child.
Death will come for me, I do not know the hour, but I
know it will come. And it is up to me to decide what
is important to me in the time given to me before death
comes knocking, and how I will spend that time.
I decided that it was true, I must live in this world a time,
but I would not be of this world. I set my heart and mind
on things above, and began to build a treasure for myself
beyond the past, the present, to that eternal kingdom, and
on the things of God. And since that cold January night,
peace has come. Yes, there have been struggles, and I have
stumbled along the narrow way, and will do so again.
But the peace of God, which transcends human understanding,
is not a fleeting peace one feels for a moment, but a peace
that seeps quietly into the depths of a man, into the soul,
down in that quiet place the jaded world cannot enter.
It comes without fanfare at times, silently, as fog creeps
upon a harbor in the first hours of dawn. It remains there,
protecting, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
That wonderful, merciful peace of God, dwells forever in
us, reminding us, even on chilling January evening, filled
with crystalline lights against a black sky of velvet glory, that
we are mere shadows passing through the night. That we
will stumble at times along our way, but with His help,
no matter our past or future, we can finish well.
© Richard Keith Carlton