The Fragility of Our Existence

“Life was like the ice on an early-winter pond: more fragile than it appeared to be, riddled by hidden fractures, with a cold darkness below.” – Dean Koontz

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” – James 4:14

“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy. – Desmond Tutu

“Life is fragile and short and worth all the loving presence we can bring to it.” – Rebecca Kushins

Just like a nefarious past, an immoral thought, or an inexcusable mistake we made – so it goes with the fragility of life.  They are things we seldom acknowledge or admit – things we would rather not spend time talking or thinking about too much.

Our feeble attempts to diminish or to cast the idea into the background of our lives doesn’t mitigate its reality.  Avoidance has no impact on its existence.  We can stoically get on with the extrinsic business of living, but the delicate, fragile nature of life is an intrinsically interwoven aspect of it.  There is no getting around the fact that life can dramatically change in the blink of an eye.  It is far more tenuous and instable than any of us would like to admit.

All of us have stories and examples of this occurring in our own lives and the lives that touch us.  I remember coming to work one morning being greeted by a manager who was youthful and full of positivity and enthusiasm.  By noon that day he had passed away unexpectedly – leaving behind a wife and two young children.  I recall looking into the eyes of my coworkers as they announced the tragedy.  You could visibly see how each of them came face to face with the fragility of life in that moment – myself included.  We mourned the immediate loss and its devastating impact on our friend and leader, but we mourned a little for ourselves as well – knowing it could have been any one of us that day.

We either heard of or experienced firsthand the routine doctor visit that resulted in life-altering news, the accident that changed things dramatically, or the event or circumstance that came out of nowhere – turning us into an entirely different person in a matter of minutes.

Some say it is best to put such a negative, pessimistic thought out of our mind.  Why entertain or nurture the fragility of life?  Why embrace its uncertainty and its delicacy?  Is there any benefit or value in pondering how truly vulnerable and irrepressible life can be?

The answer is yes…..and here is why:

It Increases Its Value

When we contemplate how delicate and fragile our lives really are, we connect with its value in a deeper way.  Something that is so unique (as each of us are), so limited (like the vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow) and so complex (we are each made in the image of God) has tremendous worth!

We begin to understand that what adds MORE value to it isn’t found in tangible blessings, riches and positive experiences, but in what challenges us, shapes us, and teaches us through difficulty and hardship.  The temporal fragility of our humanness and all we face here in this world has significant value and lessons for us eternally.  Our growth beyond this life is contingent on it! 

It Heightens our Gratitude

When we realize how quickly things can change, we begin to see a broader spectrum of things we cherish – things we are thankful for that often go unnoticed or overlooked.  The ability to see, hear, taste and touch are priceless in an environment where tomorrow they could cease to exist.  Things that appear simple, routine and somewhat irrelevant in a stoic approach to life are now looked upon with a gratifying indebtedness through the lens of fragility.  We see how quickly they can come and go!  The smile of a loved one, the touch of one hand to another, to hear the voice of someone you admire and love or to simply get up out of a chair and walk across the room become treasured and appreciated!  Our hearts are filled with satisfaction and thankfulness in the smallest of details when we embrace our fragility.

It Calls us to Action

The frail and brittle aspects of life have a way of pushing us to action – realizing our time is short and our circumstances are potentially limited.  We begin to see we can no longer harbor an offense or withhold our forgiveness.  We can no longer avoid the difficult conversation or apathetically delay the reconciliation.  We connect with the importance of telling those we care about that we love them, to ask for absolution when we have hurt someone and to aggressively pursue the passions that are an integral part of our purpose here.  When we stare at the fragility of things, we see the urgency in taking ACTION – knowing that sheer minutes can make a life-changing difference for us and those we love! 

It Places Emphasis on the Present

Our delicate, frail lives are not guaranteed a tomorrow and they are not served well by looking back or reliving yesterday.  Your life is unfolding NOW!  Your next thought or attitude, the very next word you utter, and the immediate action you decide to take…all are of such vital importance when we view and embrace the fragility of life.   When we think we are invincible, when we believe we have our entire lives ahead of us, we miss critical moments and opportunities NOW where life is truly being revealed to us.  RIGHT NOW becomes so important!  Each conversation becomes more meaningful, each bite of food is savored a little extra, each experience is met with gratitude and each action we take has a deeper and more conscious purpose to it.  Life’s fragility has a way of making each present moment more valuable – bring with it a “loving presence” as Rebecca Kushins mentions above.   

So my friend….Is it really so negative and pessimistic to view life in terms of its delicate imbalance, its fragile, ever-changing nature, or its vapor-like existence?

My prayer is that each of us embrace our fragility instead of pushing the reality of it to the background – seeing it in a way we never have before.

God bless us all 😊

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