“Working backward from the deadline” is a phrase we use when we’re establishing a production schedule or timeline to finish a project. When followed, it establishes an appropriate amount of time to achieve each step of accomplishing a goal. Yesterday, while I was attending the funeral service for Jim Mannion, the father of one of my oldest and closest friends, that phrase came to my mind. And it seemed timely, because Lent is a good time to examine these things.
At this celebration of Mr. Mannion’s life, friends and family shared and remembered all of the ways that he touched our lives. We reflected on how he shared his gifts from God with his family, with his children, wife, and community. And, from the reflections by his son during the service, it was clear that he shared his gifts abundantly. So, it got me thinking about life and death—Easter celebration and the spiritual discernment process of Lent.
If the funeral is the party—or Easter—then Lent is the working schedule. If we start “working backward from our deadline,” or in this case, working backward from our death, we ask: What do we need to focus on so that we might celebrate at Easter? What do we need to accomplish on this earth before we are called home? Do we need to increase the sharing of our gifts of time and money to help others? Do we need to financially support the organizations we believe in? Do we need to give more freely of kind words or patience?
I don’t mean over-sharing either. Giving generously and with kindness does not mean giving until it hurts, or giving in a way that is damaging to our well-being. When we get weary and resentful because we have taxed ourselves, this is not sharing with love. When we share as God wants us to, I trust that we will have enough energy and resources for the important stuff that matters.
How are you praising God by your actions? How are you working backward everyday from the celebration of your life?
Elizabeth McBride is the director for intergenerational digital engagement and editor of Café.
This post first appeared on the Women of the ELCA blog in March 2012.