What Really Matters
What gives our lives meaning? What binds us to each other and to God? How do we get through today and tomorrow?
I’m preparing a continuing education session for a gathering of Stephen Ministers. We’ll be discussing how to care for those who are approaching life’s end. A good bibliography on this subject always includes the works of one of my idols, Ira Bock, M.D., a long-time leader in end-of-life care. The Four Things That Matter Most is his seminal book on reconciling and completing relationships before death. The Four Things are just eleven words, four sentences:
Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
I love you.
Dr. B. found that these words have a remarkable impact at life’s end, and yet the subtitle of his book is A Book About Living. Indeed, it is fine guidance for each day. It is the Christian life, and provides an excellent roadmap for all of us at St. Alban’s, particularly in these confusing, transition times.
I can’t speak for you, but if I follow Dr. Byock’s guidance, here’s what I would have to say for myself:
Forgive me, you-know who-you-are. I am quick to assign blame when I don’t like the way things are going and to question motives. Forgive me for not letting go. I have been too sure of my version of truth. I too easily forget that God is already at work; please God, forgive that.
I work to forgive but am a work in progress. I’m a little better at forgiving what hurts me than forgiving what hurts people I love. But I'm finding it easier to forgive as I accept that I am forgiven.
Thank you—thank you family, friends, thank you God—for unconditional love. Thank you St. Alban’s for safety, courage, wisdom; even thanks for being as imperfect as I am. For music, for shared joy, and for extraordinary memories, gratitude has no bounds.
I love you, lots and lots of you. Forgive me for not making sure that you know that. I love being part of God’s church.
So how might we, as a community of faith, live into the Four Things? Who needs our forgiveness and what within us needs to be forgiven? How can we show love and thankfulness? How might saying these words, with honesty and vulnerability, help strengthen and reconcile our church, even as we joyfully do our Gospel work? What do you hear God saying?