Have a Good Day. Such a hackneyed phrase we use upon parting, offered limply to someone we don’t know well. Why title your book this way?
Apparently because Dr. Rilling knew he had something to say in the sermon he chose for the first chapter, its namesake (with added exclamation!). But truth be told, it’s probably also why it took me so long to take this book off the shelf and open it up. Ah, so many Bibles out there, sitting on bookshelves waiting to be opened up. But then…
The chapter begins with a story featuring Eugenia, a character sketched by William Law, some two hundred years before Grandpa wrote (and preached). “Like most of us,” Law wrote, “Eugenia has a picture of herself not as she is, but as she is some day going to be.”
Someday Eugenia intends to be mistress of a considerable household where she will live in strict devotion, raise her children in practice of piety, and spend her time living in a very different manner from the rest of the world.
But, Law points out, though Eugenia may intend all this with sincerity, she is not yet head of a family, and perhaps never may be. But the person nearest her now, she leaves behind as she goes about her ‘faithful living.’ She doesn’t teach, invite or even get to know well, the woman in her service. Eugenia is not availing herself of the opportunity she has now to live in the manner she proposes, so how real are Eugenia’s intentions?
How like Eugenia we are, laments Dr. Rilling. How we intend to live differently when the conditions are more favorable, when that big deal comes through, when the economy improves, and if my circumstances permit it. And we all would be so much nicer people if the people we have to live with weren’t so difficult.
“We shall do nothing of the sort!” Dr. Rilling contends, preaching from First Peter.
He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it.” ~ I Peter 3:10-11.
“The time to do right is now. This is the day that the Lord has made. Every day is a little life; and our whole life is but a day repeated.”
From the distance of years this comes clear, it seems to me, especially to those who have done some misspending. I smile remembering the early morning sessions I worked in the cardiac rehab lab. There I met dozens of balding and grey-haired wonders who, recovering from surgery or a cardiac event or living in the face of severe cardiac disease, sought to turn back time. They changed their diets, adjusted their stressors and disciplined themselves to regular exercise. They were dedicated to making each day count.
I so wished my twenty- and thirty-year-old friends, who were stressed and sedentary in their days and practicing risky behaviors on the rebound could see my cardiac rehabbing friends.
These elders had started smoking because it was cool, well before we knew it caused cancer. They had three martini lunches because it made for more productive business meetings, before we knew it would send many into alcoholism and health compromise. They had fortified their Type A behavior, before we knew that stress had physical consequences. Now, these guys were doing all they could to turn back the clock, while the younger generation paid them no mind. They spent their days as they pleased, come what may.
Today, I think of a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer. She has lead an exemplary life as wife, mother and grandmother. She has taken care of her health and cared for the health of others. She doesn’t deserve what has befallen her, and yet she endures.
And, remarkably, that endurance is a daily occurrence she is shaping into an all out sprint. Thanksgiving, gobble up every minute! Grand kids are over, hug ’em tight and saturate them with full-tilt fun! Sons and daughters-in-law visit, speak what can’t wait!
On visiting her, I am greeted at the front door by a hand-colored sign in green and red crayola: Merry Christmas! And so it is. Each day, completely full of itself. Exclamation point!
It is odd how our preponderance of days can make us spendthrifts and our limit of days can make us conscientious. Indeed from the vantage point of what-really-matters, my friend distances herself from what sucks the life out of the rest of us as she completely embraces the life that is truly life. Day, by everlasting day.
“He that would love life and see good days — this is the day,” Dr. Rilling concludes. “Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow is only a vision, but today well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.
And have a good day today!”