My mother had an older brother who died when I was a toddler. Growing up, my parents would sometimes talk about Uncle Vicente. I knew about the accident in which he died.
I also knew from them how he lived. How much he loved music and to play his guitar. How hard-working he was. How he liked to tease. How infectious his joy was. I also knew he was almost blind.
Surgery didn’t help. He wore thick glasses, but still only managed to barely see. Uncle Vicente and his brother, my Uncle Daniel, took over a health food store the same year I was born. They sold natural products and fresh whole wheat bread baked daily. During that time, they stayed with my parents who lived several blocks away from the store. One evening, Uncle Vicente walked from the store to the house to tell my mom he’d be home late because he was waiting for the bread to finish baking. She was five months pregnant and home alone. He didn’t want her to worry.
Back at the store, he sat down in the back room alone to have his supper when his chair slipped, and he hit the inventory shelf which stocked jars of syrup and other products. The jars crashed and shattered.
He couldn’t leave cleaning it to the morning because it’d be opening time, and the back would have to be clean. But he also couldn’t see. So to make sure the glass was completely swept up, he used his hands to feel for the shards. In the morning, my mother saw his bandaged hands, and he told her what had happened. Why hadn’t he come to get her? She would have helped.
Every few years I remember that story and my heart cuts. I wish I could be there to help him sweep up. I think of losing sight and making the way through streets and through life seeing only silhouettes, and I wish I could have been his eyes. And I wish I could balm my own mother’s heart, who is left with only memories of a sibling with whom she should have had decades more.
Today on my way home from grocery shopping, this memory popped into my head. What usually happens when my heart is heavy with memories of loved ones who are gone, or when I read about daily injustice, or just the state of this world in general, is I find myself whispering prayers.
“Oh God…just come soon. Just end this world. Take us home, please. Whatever I can do to lessen the suffering, whatever I can do to hasten Your coming, show me.”
Sometimes that trail of thinking leads me to believe I’d be willing to live in remote places, dedicate my life to teaching, going to foreign fields. But today I stopped myself and chuckled. What makes me think I could do all of that when I fail so often here at home?
In a way, it seems easier to make big sacrifices. You get support from outsiders, you get acknowledgment that what you’re doing is worthy, noble. You may even get obvious results: churches built, patients healed, the good news spread.
Giving one’s life to missions, dedicating time to aid, giving resources to teach are all worthy and those who do this should be encouraged. And, yes, God will equip those who are willing, no matter how failing they are.
But sometimes we forget to highlight the dying daily. How often do we consider our daily choices as powerful tools for the hastening of His kingdom? How often do we consider those who spend their lives teaching, preaching, reaching, as the ones responsible, without considering our own part through how we live?
We have our part to play. And we have to play it every single minute. When we eat, dress, speak, share, think on the Kingdom, that’s when we are preparing for it and playing an active part in hastening its coming.
Not all of us are called to big sacrifice. Our role is to bind up the hearts and wounds, to be the eyes to the blind, to comfort those in our families, churches, communities through the way we live. Through every step, act, word.
It’s a work often over-looked and taken for granted by others and ourselves. But every private decision, every unseen nicety and good thought is observed and written down. These are the powerful agencies that accumulate to bring Heaven nearer.
Encouragement to the self-sacrificing men and women who make this world a better place are merited and ought to continue. But this week, I challenge you to observe in at least one person something they are doing to bring Heaven to this Earth. Maybe it’s the meals they prepare, the hospitality they extend, the ready smile, the way they dress, the way they speak.
Look for how the people around you are hastening His kingdom and acknowledge them. Let’s become inspired to, through daily tasks, do our part to bring Heaven a little bit closer, because my goodness if ever that was needed it’s now.