By JIM NICHOLS
Like many others, I have constructed a list of one-liners over the years. These are phrases or paragraphs that have spoken truths clearly and, often, in unexpected ways. I frequently have these on separate small pieces of paper and they have no particular relationship to one another except that, for some reason, they spoke to me at the time. I stumble upon some of them on occasion and keep hoping that they will coalesce into some theme, but they never do. However, they are so rich and simple that they still stick with me. They are close to God speaking to me through random sets of words. I had an academic religious friend once who, when he encountered such an idea would say, “Well, that’s almost Bible.” I present a few of them here with no attempt to tie them together. Perhaps you will hear something.
1.“I find life to be much simpler if I am the same person all the time.”
This phrase came from a friend I have known for decades and he is one person who tries to be consistent in his life. Frankly, he can be a bit irritating because he tends to be inflexible in the eyes of some. It is noteworthy, however, that there is never any doubt as to what his stance will be on an issue. If you have been around him long, you can predict his response because it will follow the pattern he has apparently successfully developed. Even though I do not agree with him sometimes, I do appreciate that he does not waver from his basic beliefs. He is clearly attempting to be God’s person.
2. “When I die, I hope people are not confused as to what I thought was important.”
Sometimes I wonder what might be said about me at my funeral. This sentence from another friend addresses that topic. Each of us hopes that we are living lives that highlight joy and peace and care. Despite living in a world that values temporal accumulation, it would be good if others remembered us for things more durable. Was he faithful to his family? Was he able to weigh pluses and minuses and decipher what was the best and most loving decision for that time? Could we count on him for patience and presence?
3. “Our responsibility is to tell the truth, not to convince anyone of something.”
This statement by author Austin Channing Brown is a powerful one for me. It is also a powerful one in today’s world. I suspect that I am not alone in wondering how so many people can be so untruthful. These folks are not just twisting a few facts and exaggerating, they are outright lying. The caveat, of course, is that this assumes that truth does exist. While open discussion of topics (political or otherwise) is a positive, it seems to me that reasonable people can usually tell truth from falsehood. What this statement says to me is that it is important to tell the truth simply because it is the truth. We are welcome to have stances we want to defend, but the goal is to tell the truth, not defend the stance.
4. “Even if you forget who I am, I will not forget who you are.”
I admit that I stole this from a television show, but it still is important to me. The context was two old friends talking to one another. One friend had just received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and was voicing his concern that he was going to forget who his friend was. The friend responded with the statement above. I note that he did not dispute the friend’s statement (“I may forget you”), but added an assurance that the reverse was not true.
Alzheimer’s is not the only context for this statement. One can envision many life circumstances in which one person will lose some abilities and yet have reliable companions who maintain constancy and care. We need to voice this to one another. The statement clearly resonates with God’s own statements, especially in the Hebrew Bible, when God bemoans the literal and spiritual wandering of His people but assures them of His permanent love.
My hunch is that you too have a real or mental list of phrases such as these. They may speak only to you and not someone else; or, they may say something different to someone else. Nevertheless, I believe they are one way that the Holy Spirit continues to enlighten us. I would welcome your suggesting to me some of your personal items that are “Almost Bible.”
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain