We emerge into consciousness innately desiring lives long and full with dramatic beginnings, meaningful middles, and poignant endings.
We require happy childhoods; tearful high school graduations; love gained and lost and regained with new insight and permanence; weddings graced with innocent flower girls who toss petals in neat distribution; fulfilling careers remembered for moments of punctuated sacrifice; children and grandchildren who outgrow the piercing stage and establish far-flung careers that bring them back for Thanksgiving dinner to drop names and casually spill about their Google-worthy accomplishments; and finally, a well-attended funeral where our lasting contributions are recognized with just the right balance of show and restraint, and we receive an honored place in the collective memory of those who knew us way back when and can’t get over how far we came and how much we accomplished in spite of it all.
We miss the point.
In all our wanting, demanding, and re-scripting, we fail to understand that our lives are not meant to fit neatly into brown paper packages tied up with strings. Meaning comes from partness, not from wholeness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer rejected the idea that life could be “cut short” due to failed plans and diminished years. He wrote:
“It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments that are only good to be thrown away, and others that are important for centuries to come because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment…we shall not bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, rejoice in it.”
Nothing in my life has gone as planned. It has all gone much better. The tears, heartaches, and disappointments have all had their place in an eternal quest to become a worthy fragment.
In the end, it will never have been about me, and I’m thankful.
Thankful for a fragmentary life that is and always will be about the greater whole.