When is it quittin' time?
My first "real" job was working on a farm and maintenance crew south of Birmingham, Alabama. It was hard, hot work but I loved it. I was a typical 15 year old hormonal young buck and loved coming home with hay dust caked onto my sweaty body; I felt strong. But the best time of day was 3:30 in the afternoon when we would all holler, "Quittin time!"
When is it time to quit? Not just work, but living?
When preaching the Gospel landed a fellow in jail for the fourth time, it would have been easy to quit. But...well, did you see the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ? A beautiful depiction of Paul's living out his encouragement to press on when it would be easy to quit. Paul didn't have much toward the end--no big crowds, only his closest friend Luke, and a sentence of death hanging literally over his head. But he kept on, pressed on. He loved Luke deeply and continued to feed him til the end; he prayed mightily for the churches; he wrote.
He did what he could. Even when sick and near death.
But we've all been (or will be!) sick and near death at some point. And even if we're not sick it can be so easy to give up when discouraged. My sister Allyn was nearing her final passage this time last year. I've been sick for three months and certainly closer to death than I was in April.
So what about Allyn? What about me? What about you? Time to quit, sit on the swing, and let other folks take care of us? You readers, church folks, former clients, and friends have so loved me through three months of rather brutal illness. And I saw love at its purest during Allyn's final days. But the deepest love, the love you have shown and that Allyn received, doesn't say let me do it for you; the love of God says I will "spot you," yell encouragements, raise you up if you fall, help you to stand and live!
There is a quittin' time. And the time came for Allyn to quit as I sat by her side with my hand on her forehead, loving her deeply, so deeply as I listened to her breathe her last.
But Paul pressed on. Allyn pressed on. Paul kept living and loving til the end. Allyn kept partially feeding herself even when it took ten minutes to get a bite of pancake to her mouth. I had said to Allyn in the kind of love we shared, "You get to let people help you do what you can't; you and I don't get to let other people do for us what we can. Because we have one calling above all my beloved sister, to live and love as fully as we can."
So what about us? What about me?
A part of my healing and living is sweeping and blowing leaves in my yard, study toward writing on friendship, study for the preaching I love and serving my wonderful church, cleaning the west windows of my house, going to Market Street, loving and feeding best friends and family, walking my dogs. I can do those; I can live. Even when it would be easier to holler "Quittin' time!"
I know...I know so well how easy it can be to long for our final release, for the time to lay our burdens down. It is disheartening when you raised children and it later becomes difficult to even rise up off of the bed. It is hard to face the reality that you don't have the energy or focus for counseling when you built and sustained a practice for years. It is hard when you used to be a full time nurse and you're limited to taking care of a loved one. You can become so discouraged when you've tried everything you know in your parenting or your work or your marriage or your health or your finances or others of the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to and nothing seems to be working. I get that...I really, really do.
But it ain't quittin' time yet. You can't climb fourteeners, ride your horses, make a bunch of money, keep your yard immaculate, preach to 2500 people, be the big farmer, travel to Europe, or dance all night long. Those may be gone but your life and calling are not gone.
If we drew breath this morning we can and as followers of Christ must do two things: love and live.
So, shall we? Press on...