The Second Third, Week 17: Ashes

There is a paragraph from this year’s Holiday Letter that has returned to me again and again in the past few months:

“Ever wonder how God can know everything that will happen, even though we have free will and make our own decisions? St. Augustine talks about God as existing outside of time: He existed before time in any meaningful sense, so He can see all of time—past, present, and future—in an instant. But I think of life as a high sledding hill with God at the top, giving us a push. It’s left to us to steer, but like any good father, He knows our tendencies to close our eyes or overcorrect better than we do, and so He can see every curve we’ll negotiate, every bump that will bounce us airborne, every tree we’ll hit. He sees the trajectories of other sledders and knows their tendencies, as well—knows whose paths we’ll cross, for good or for ill, and when we’ll be blindsided by love. He alone has the long view, the Big Picture. We must persist with less—a glimpse of heaven through the treetops as we slip away, faster, faster…”

This seems particularly appropriate this Ash Wednesday, when we dwell a moment or two on the ephemeral nature of this life and this world: We are dust, and unto dust we shall return. In these Second Third posts, I’ve already written about being grateful for what we have and finding the sense to know when enough is enough. But today, the focus is on something a little different: In my Second Third, I hope to detach even from the “stuff” we choose to keep. I hope to turn my eyes toward heaven instead of where I am now, staring at the ground, watching my step. I hope to quit worrying about who’s in control of the sled, and enjoy the sting of snow on my cheeks, the gleam of stars passing overhead, the laughter of those I love weaving through the trees beside me, the white moon and the lonely miles. I hope to live, not hastily or extravagantly, but thoroughly — so that when I reach my third Third I have nothing left but joy to spend on anyone. Including you.

A man can dream, can’t he?

2 thoughts on “The Second Third, Week 17: Ashes

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