My cat died in the wintertime, so my parents kept it in the freezer until I got home. We gathered in my backyard that spring for the burial. Dad dug a hole while kitty lay in a plastic Wal-Mart bag on the ground, paws outstretched in a deathly catnap. It was a quiet spring day as the shovel hit the dirt and the birds chirped in the trees. Finally, solemnly, with a tear in his eye, my father asked me to place my kitty in the grave. I gathered the cat shaped, plastic wrapped, furry ice cube into my arms and began to place him into the hole.
I checked to see what was happening and realized his legs were sticking out too far. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. I shifted the thing around and tried to put it in another way, tried to stuff it into the hole, tried to make it work. Kittys’ paws were stretched out, elongated, furry, frozen. My daddy didn’t dig the hole big enough.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
The more ways I tried to shove the frozen cat into the hole, the more humorous the situation became. I glanced at my mom, who was trying in vain to hold back her giggles. Grumbling, my dad bent down and quickly enlarged the hole, jamming the bag into the ground, and covering it with dirt as my mom and I doubled over laughing.
It occurred to me at a very young age that life only happened once. I was surrounded by dying things. My kitties ended up in freezers. My pet turtles slowly withered away in their tanks and my snakes starved themselves. My hedgehog got pneumonia because our basement was moldy. My guinea pig had a fatal seizure in front of me. My rat died of cancer on my birthday, and my other rat killed my new rat on valentines’ day. It was bloody. My pet frog ate my mudpuppy, and then I felt bad for the other one so I let him live under our deck, but I forgot that mudpuppies live in water. The goldfish usually only lived for a week. Even my cactus died.
Then my cousin died. He was only 21. I saw his lifeless body in the casket and I knew that each life only happened once. As a kid, I spent a lot of time dreaming about how mine would end. I would re-enact the heroic deaths of my action figures, pretending it was my own death. I would role play my greatest heroes from Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I would imagine taking a bullet for my friends or saving children from a burning building. I tried to imagine how I would accomplish these heroic feats. Someday I would become a paramedic, a firefighter. a rescue worker. I would do something great.
We all want to do something great.
We love the movies with epic plotlines that make us feel like something matters.
The video games where we get to pretend that we are saving the world.
The novels that draw us into a life changing story.
We long to do great things.
We long to make this life matter. After all, we only get it once. we look back in history at those who changed it and we wonder if we will be remembered too. If what we do with this life has consequence. Or if the only thing people will remember about us was that we died here.
Today I read in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to do far more with me than anything I could ask or imagine by myself. Try as I might to imagine the kinds of things God could do through my life; the dreams I had as a little girl of how I would make my life matter, and the dreams I have now; my dreams are not all that big.
The things I think are great are far less than the greatness God has in mind. By myself I can only do so much. But God is into the business of doing way beyond what I can come up with on my own.
I had a dream several years ago.
In my dream I was kayaking with two friends in a mansion filled with water. Two killer whales began to jump next to our boats, and my friends got out to ride them. I stood on the shore and took pictures. I looked down the hallway of this mansion and at the end of the corridor surfaced a HUGE great blue whale. ‘I want to ride THAT one…’ I thought. I woke up from this dream and pondered it. my two friends in that dream had God-given visions that they were pursuing. I felt as though I stood on the sidelines, waiting for God to choose me for something too, to give me a whale. That morning as I prayed I felt like He said to me, ‘I HAVE chosen you for something. It’s BIG. You will get there. Keep pursuing me.’
If I want to be used to change history, I will put myself in the hands of the History Maker.
I want His greatness. Not my own. I don’t make the great blues. I just chase them.