My Favourite Stories #44

Reflecting on things.

It was common in my school days to see High School drama groups (both mine and others) putting on the play by Thornton Wilder called “Our Town.” In the play, Emily, who is the main character, dies giving birth to a child. In the afterlife, she is granted one wish, and she chooses the privilege of watching herself and her family live out one day of the life she left behind – she chooses her twelfth birthday. She watches herself and her family as they talk and interact and carry on the ordinary activities of that day.

From her perspective as an invisible observer, she is shocked and dismayed by what she sees and hears. Neither she nor the members of her family seem to give serious attention to each other. Realizing how precious life is, she becomes angry because they are not emotionally involved in their interactions. They seem casual in what they say and do, not recognizing, as she does from the other side of death, that they will not have this day forever. She agonizes over the way the day transpires. She cannot stand to watch herself and her family waste what she knows to be infinitely precious time. She is shocked that they live life with so little reflection on its importance.

Then Emily turns to the audience and scolds them by asking, “Do any of you ever really live life while you’re living it?”

While I do not agree with the theology of this play, because the Bible declares repeatedly that the dead no nothing, older people like myself understand Emily’s pain and what Wilder was trying to say. I am keenly aware of the fact that I have failed to reflect sufficiently upon my life. The precious times we have with each other slip quickly by without our giving them the intensive attention which they deserve. Many people I know are so detached from life that they seem to be in a trance which renders them more dead than alive. And they sleepwalk their way through life without much awareness of the wonder of it all. It is the deadness of the soul rather than the perversity of the soul that is the devil’s most significant accomplishment on this planet.

As I reflect on my own life, I find becoming a Christian made me more alive to life and more aware of the wonder of existence than most people think possible. Since surrendering myself to Christ and His indwelling Spirit, I have an exuberant awareness of the specialness and wonder of life and the hope that is within me of eternal life.

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