Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 20, 2008


Broken and on our knees we often find the strength to carry on


Some years ago I took on the difficult task of trying to explain the meaning of life. Not that I thought I could explain it fully. No one can. But I had to try. And I must continue trying. I am compelled to shed what little light I can on the enigma of our human existence.

Life is a puzzle. On this we all agree. It is a strange mix of meaning and mystery, delight and distress, bitter and sweet. Philosophers write volumes to explain what it all means. Soon or late every person wants to know “Why was I born? Why am I here?”

Every day we live in a swirl of contrasting realities. Some are gladdening, others maddening. We are cheered by the joyful enthusiasm of a little girl who is full of life. We are saddened by the despondency of an aging woman who sits for hours on the side of her bed staring out the window.

One day we enjoy the fun of a community ballpark, gulping down hot dogs and screaming with delight as a young son slides across home plate to win the game for our team. Does it get any better than having your own son score the winning run?

On another day we are at the hospital, in a small conference room, numb with fear as a grim-faced doctor says that our precious little boy has leukemia, and there is no cure. When we ask how long our son has to live, he says "from two months to two years." Soon we are outside the hospital, staring into an uncaring sky, unable to keep the tears back, and wanting somebody to tell us why this is happening. You curse at the sky but no one answers. Everything is a blur.

Then on a lovely Saturday in May the family gathers under large oaks for a picnic. Lovely weather, lots of children, plenty of food and laughter -- all we needed to celebrate Mark’s and Sherri’s tenth anniversary. It was one of those wonderful days that make you smile all over.  Life is good.

Five years later, standing under the same tall oaks, you reflect soberly on the pain and loss your family has suffered in that short span of time. Your wife’s sister and your own sister, the youngest of three, are gone, both victims of cancer. Your wife’s mother finally escaped from the nursing home, dying there at age 99, unaware that her oldest daughter had preceded her in death. Your own parents are also dead now, having passed on at 93 and 95.

But that’s life in the real world.  There are ball games and picnics, laughter and good times; there are heartaches and funerals, sorrows and farewells. There are days filled with the joy of achievement and success, and days clouded with anger, broken relationships, disappointments, divorce, and defeats.

The challenge is to find a way to live to the fullest in the midst of all that life brings. It’s never easy but it is possible. A positive spirit helps. But most of all we have to admit our need of help, God’s help, and the help of others who care about us.

Each of us must learn to embrace life as it is, and even in the midst of tears give thanks for all that is good. Gratitude is the key to fullness of joy. If we can be thankful for all that is, and accept the challenge to make the most of whatever comes our way, something mysterious happens. We discover the presence of One who, unseen but real, comes alongside us to love us and to help us find our way.

Strangely, that never seems to happen until we are on our knees, broken and willing at last to admit that we need help from outside ourselves. But to our surprise suddenly we are able to cope with the mystery of life. Once we are able to embrace life as it is, we can find ways to make it better for ourselves and others. Though all the mystery is not gone, life makes sense. And when it makes sense, life has meaning. + + +