Often, I find hidden gems regarding life in cartoons. For example, Garfield is hiding under the covers in the Sunday newspaper because it is his 43rd birthday. He is uncomfortably aware that growing older does not exude the same celebratory excitement as when he turned 5.
Snoopy is determined to win a tennis match. But instead winds up sprawling and dazed on the court in defeat with a tennis ball stuffed in his mouth from his opponent’s first serve. And, in Blondie, young Elmo announced to a stunned Dagwood that he is raising the price of his lawn cutting service for the summer.
How many times have we tried to avoid those birthdays? Haven’t we all dreamed of winning a game but tumbled in defeat? And, of course, we know about the rising cost of services. So these cartoons often cause us to laugh at ourselves and provide a bit of respite from the more pressing news of the day.
Ruthie is the precocious, industrious little girl in Rick Detorie’s comic strip “One Big Happy.” Her brother, Joe, constantly bugs her, and her thoughtful parents and grandparents offer her words of wisdom. Yet, 6-year-old Ruthie can spin a story and twist a profound declaration into a fun statement with a different meaning that always elicits a laugh.
She walks toward Grandpa, who is sitting on the sofa reading. “Whatcha doing, Grandpa?” Ruthie asks. He responds, “I’m reading the Bible, Ruthie. It’s been a while since I’ve done it.”
“Why are you doing it now?” Ruthie questions. Grandpa replies, “Well, I’m getting up in years and ... ”
Ruthie runs to her Mama in the kitchen, “Guess what, Mom! Grandpa’s studying for his FINAL exams!”
I believe I heard God laughing after he read the same thing.
As we face those older birthdays, many begin to ponder eternity. I have always found it fascinating that we often do seem to cram for that ambiguous final day. It is usual for many who are aging to try to make amends and visit folks they haven’t seen in a while before it is too late. We aspire to travel the world and squeeze as much out of life as possible before it leaves us.
I wonder as God watches us studying for the final day what he must think. Then, perhaps, our Heavenly Father would like to question us. “Why did you wait to seek forgiveness or delay seeing those you wished to visit? Why did you not contemplate eternity throughout your life instead of only near the end? And, kids, how did you know, with assurance, you would reach the age of ‘old’?”
When I was small, I watched my grandmother read her Bible at the same time daily. “Why do you study the Bible every night?” I asked.
“To learn, to honor the Lord, and be ready,” she replied.
I, like Ruthie, did not quite understand what “be ready” meant, but as I aged, I certainly did. I witnessed young friends and family members who were taken from life before ever entering adulthood. We all know or loved folks whose lives abruptly ended without warning. They weren’t given a chance to study for a final. Their test was over.
My grandmother was 97 when she was called to Heavenly glory. She never needed a final exam because she stayed prepared and ready to meet her Teacher whenever he called her.
God is watching, listening, and loving us when we take our first breath until the day the last bit of air escapes us. He sees our errors and tears, and laughs with us in our joy. He understands who we are and why. If we are blessed to know him earlier in life, then we build our faith daily. Each step we take with trust in God allows us to withstand the difficult moments and treasure the happier ones. The more we talk to God as our Father, friend, and advisor, the less we fail, the more we achieve, and fear of death soon dies.
The only thing we need to cram for is living our life to please God every day we live. And boy, if we all tried such a thing, the world would turn around in a nanosecond! So, perhaps, the answer to most of our problems is not found only by reading the Bible’s words but by living them. Just like my grandmother, who daily sat on the sofa holding her worn Holy Book.
Ruthie is only 6, but if she is blessed, those who love her will teach her that there are no exams at the end of God’s book. Instead, just solid instructions, so you learn there is no final.