It takes a lot to make us see how the life we've been given will one day be given back, but there's a hopeful message in this.
Early in my grief after my father passed away from a brain tumor, I learned that life isn’t owned; it’s borrowed. I penned the poem below with my younger brother, Toby, in mind. It’s now the very first poem in Borrowed Images.
Our father was a sturdy hull,
with his own standing sail,
but the cancer hollowed him
and the mast of his splintered mind.
On a June night,
in a silent tempest,
on a silent sea,
to a silent country.
And that turned us all to boats.
Daily now we undock in the morning,
throwing harbor rope
to waiting water.
Daily now we stare inward at ourselves,
checking for leaks
and rusty nails.
We are boats that bob
on nervous water,
praying to the horizon,
asking the light for time,
claiming ourselves strong and free
on the wild open sea.
But none of the boats belong to us,
or their sails stitched from cotton seed,
or the oars and deck boards.
We are not owners.
We borrowed and planned to give back,
but then . . .
changed our minds.
Life seems far too precious to give back in the end, doesn’t it? We convince ourselves that we own life, not that it’s borrowed. But it is borrowed. The breath we’ve been given will one day be given back.
But here’s the hope in all this: what we’ve borrowed from the divine owner pales in comparison to what we’ll have forever. I really believe that. While life in a world marred by sin means we’ll face a first death, life in the Word means we’ll never have to face the second death. I live inside an eternal person. I am unending in him. Unending.
It’s good to borrow and return. That’s what we do with library books. But it’s much better to abide and dwell—to stay, to remain. And in the God of my fathers, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll abide.
Hope lives where there is a home. Not a hotel—a home. And these waking days are not my home. My home is over the crest of the hill. It is no borrowed place. The borrowed place is this side of paradise.