This past week has been one of extremes. On Friday morning, my wife and I babysat our 8-month old granddaughter for a couple of hours. We fed her lunch, took her out for a walk in her stroller, and then played inside the house with her. She became upset about something and started to cry. This lasted for about 15 minutes until she fell asleep in my arms as I walked her around the house. When her mother came home, she found her daughter asleep in my arms on the couch. It was a lovely scene with granddad holding his sleeping granddaughter in his arms.
That afternoon, we drove to Southwestern University. My wife and I mentor a first-generation university student and meet twice each semester. The student told us about her first European trip last summer; the various adventures traveling around on trains and staying at youth hostels. She is still navigating the university and deciding on her vocation. Our role is to coach her about life after the university and open her horizon of possibilities. It is a joy to see her blossom and mature at Southwestern.
The previous day, we learned of the death of a close friend’s mother. It happened during a surgical operation and was sudden. We knew her and grieved, both for our loss and for her family’s. We attended the funeral a few days later. The minister spoke reassuring Scripture, from Psalm and Proverbs, to the Gospel of John and Paul’s Epistles. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39 NRSV) These words of hope during our hours of darkness, gave the mourners the strength to live with joy again. Love conquers death.
One of my favorite writers is David Brooks. His latest book is The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (Random House, New York, NY, 2019). In Chapter 1, he writes about moral ecologies. “One of the greatest legacies a person can leave is a moral ecology – a system of belief and behavior that lives on after they die. … Moral ecologies subtly guide how you dress, how you talk, what you admire and disdain, and how you define your ultimate purpose.” (page 4) The Apostle Paul’s writings left a moral ecology that has lasted 2000 years. His Christian theology comforts and inspires believers.
While holding my granddaughter, so early in her journey of life, I wondered: What will be her moral ecology? What gifts has God given her? What will she choose as a vocation? What legacy will she leave behind? These same questions come to mind when my wife and I mentor our university student. She is a young adult with many God-given gifts: intellectual, organizational, and relational – so much talent that the world needs. I see such potential, yet it is too early to predict her moral ecology.
I sat in the church sanctuary during the funeral and stared at the picture of the deceased on the alter table. It was a late life photograph. She gave life to four daughters, worked several vocations, and was active in the church. People spoke kind words about her life. The minister, who knew her well, spoke of their relationship. Grieving family and friends gathered to support one another in their mutual loss. Her legacy was visible that day as we gathered together.
Moral ecology is important. It is something that outlives our short time on earth. Jesus Christ understood that death does not end our existence. Christians are people of the resurrection. During your short life, it is so important that you decide on your moral ecology – how will you “define your ultimate purpose.”It is never too early nor too late to make this important decision.