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Ride Hard

I recently saw this poster with the slogan “ride hard and earn the downhill” and was immediately drawn to the message and the design. I like the sentiment when applied to life. Work hard, reap your reward.

For those who, like me, have an inherited, instilled, or self-taught hard core work ethic, this idea is perfect. We don’t mind working hard. If you pressed, we might even admit to enjoying it. Part of the attraction is simply a job well done, a sense of accomplishment, and a knowledge that what you are accomplishing is making life better for someone else. I can’t speak for everyone else but a part of me also hopes that because I’ve worked hard now at the nitty gritty then maybe later I can work hard at enjoying some of the simpler pleasures that I never seem to have (or make) time for.

It doesn’t really work out that way though, does it?

Someone once said (and I’ve quoted this before) that life is like licking honey from a thorn. Days like today, that analogy especially rings true.

Our friend Jarret passed away. He fought for nearly 2 years against a rare form of cancer, having been diagnosed the August after his May graduation from college. And he really fought. He gave it his best shot, sharing his journey of faith and hope without glossing over the darker days. Even his blog title, survivingcancersoon, spoke of his attitude: he was never giving up.

Jarret reminded me of another favorite quote, by Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

So he fought hard. He touched a lot of lives. And now he’s gone. It really doesn’t seem quite fair. Why are we working so hard?

Life isn’t like the poster says after all. It’s actually a little bit of a crapshoot, equal parts Russian-roulette and bingo. Work hard. Do your very best. Your number might be called. Or, you may just be a little unlucky.

When you first get the news that someone you care about has died, it’s a little hard to focus on anything but how damnably unfair it is. He celebrated his 29th birthday in October. He wrote a message of love and hope to his friends at the New Year. His doctors were trying an experimental chemo and it seemed to be working. And now he’s gone.

But I would be truly unfair to his memory if I let my thoughts, and this post, stop there. Jarret believed in a second coming. He believed in a God who’s grace did not have to be earned. He wrestled with God. He admitted that he was even angry with God at times. But he never stopped believing in a Heavenly Father who sacrificed everything so that, while Jarret had to fight with all he had for his earthly life, he did not have to worry one moment about earning his eternal life. The work was already done. The price paid. The gift offered. Beyond that, Jarret also believed that God was with him every step of his struggle, knowing that God’s gift wasn’t a one time only deal but a relationship, a lifetime journey towards an eternal life spent together.

In one of his last posts, Jarret said “Good days, bad days…  Shaken faith, full of faith…  I’m so in love with the idea of God’s return it literally makes me giddy.  I know many of us share different faiths, but I can’t be afraid to tell you about one of the very few things that keeps me going… If I put faith into action “the word” says I can move mountains- with that being the case, why can’t my cancer be cured? Why cant I project great things about the future? We’ll see what God has to say about it, He’s the only one who can make the decision.  In the mean time, my playbook leads me to one play-  HAVE FAITH!!!”

My heart is heavy and I’ve shed a few tears, thinking about the pain his family and friends have gone through – watching this journey, hoping, and then saying goodbye. It isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. It still pisses me off. But it also makes me all the more grateful for a God who simply says “believe in me and I will give you eternal life. (John 3:16)” You’re working hard to pay the bills, make a difference, survive cancer but I’ve got eternal life covered. Just believe.

Maybe the poster isn’t so far off. Like Jarret, I will continue to ride hard, work hard. I will make that choice not because I need to prove myself worthy of salvation but as a tribute to the amazing gift of eternal life; not to earn it, but because I already have it.

Thank you Jarret for taking this incredibly hard journey with such grace and faith. We’re going to see your incredible smile and all that attitude again. And you better be rockin’ that fro!

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