“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27
Today you have a choice, a remarkable, life changing eternity shaping choice to make. What voice will you listen to? What will guide you? What or who will have your highest devotion and deepest belief?
I love the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. It illustrates the differences in the ways people live, the choices they make. The main point of the play is that most people do not live before they die. In fact, most people do not even realize that they were not really living, until they die.
The third act is by far the most interesting in the entire play. For the first two acts we have seen two young people growing up in a Rockwellian small town in New Hampshire. Emily and George fall in love in grade school and later marry. The third act opens with a funeral, as Emily has died giving birth. We get to see her and others who have died. We get to hear their views on life.
Emily wants to go back to that life and relive one day. She realizes how much she missed, and wants one last chance to live joyfully. She is granted that wish and returns to Grover’s Corners on her 12th birthday, determined to really make the most of that one day, to really love her family, and her life. She tries. She tries hard, but it’s no use. Everybody is in a rush. No one is taking the time to really appreciate life. They are all busy, concerned with the urgent, overlooking what is really important.
She decides to go back to her grave and her companions there. But first she wants to look one final time on her house, her town, and the life that she could have had. Ironically, she has realized in death what she missed in life. So she says goodbye to Grover’s Corners. To sleeping and waking. To new ironed dresses. To the big butternut tree. To all the small blessings that can make life beautiful if we just remember to look. It is a sad and poignant scene. Then she pauses and asks aloud, “do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” Another character answers. “No. Saints and poets maybe. They do some.”
She returns to the cemetery and takes her place among the dead. One of them is Simon Stimson, an organist and music director at the congregational church. He fought a drinking problem most of his life, and usually lost. Though in death most people begin to soften and to let go of bitterness, Simon is not there yet. He is still angry about life. When Emily relates to them about her frustrating experience on her birthday, Simon says, “That’s what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion or another. Now you know—that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.”
To be honest, Simon is right. That’s how most people live. But it does not have to be that way. The first and greatest gift God has granted is life. Though sin has marred life, twisted it, sentenced people to self-centered passions and living in ignorance and blindness, God has responded by sending His Son to restore life. He lives today so that you might have life and have it fully and abundantly.
And one of the greatest blessings of life in Christ is a growing ability to choose. You can choose to live one day at a time, and enjoy one moment at a time. You can choose not to be enslaved by the spirit-draining, self-centered passions that often become so familiar we don’t even recognize them.
The greatest challenge you face every day is to listen to the right voice. A chorus calls you to a shallow life. Listen to those voices and you will skim along the surface, you will be frustrated and wonder why. You will die before you ever live.
But another Voice calls to you. It is not loud. It does not clamor. Often it is a whisper. But once you begin to hear it, the other voices lose their power. Then you have abundant life.
Dr. Terry Ellis
February 1, 2015