Earlier this week I visited a nursing home with one of my colleagues. After we had spent time with the people we were visiting, we made our way down the hall toward the exit. We were suddenly stopped by a lady sitting in a wheel chair. She asked a simple question:
“What business have I here?”
As you might expect, both pastors standing in front of this elderly lady were somewhat speechless. I uttered something remarkably unintelligible and my pastor friend gently advised her that a member of the staff might be able to help answer her question. Finding our way to the exit and getting into our car, I reminded myself how the question I was just asked moments ago is the haunting universal question of us all.
What business have I here?
The question of the meaningfulness of life is heightened inside the walls of a nursing home. Some, if not all, of the residents will at one time or another wonder if their time on earth serves any real purpose. After all, they used to have a job. They used to manage a household. They used to serve in their churches. What business have they now? At best do they simply provide a paycheck for people who work in hospice care? At worst are they are a drain on the resources and time of their family and friends?
The question certainly isn’t limited to a residence of assisted living. Despite our busyness, our successes, our failures, our wealth, or our poverty in life. Despite the seemingly happy life or the apparent disturbing life we live every day. Despite the education, the wisdom, the company, or the loneliness of our days, we are all subject to that hidden, annoying, persistent question of the ages.
What business have I here?
Our starting point will determine our ending point. If we begin with self as the fundamental agent of purpose then I would have no real answer for the lady in the wheelchair. If our business on planet earth is the pursuit of pleasure, happiness, success, and an occasional throwback to those less fortunate, then what are we to make of our business when those things are no longer possible? This is why the visitors entrances of nursing homes remain darkened. This is why millions of elderly residents silently sit watching television and making a craft, hoping that perhaps today someone will pop in to say hello. We hate to be reminded that this is us. It is inevitable. And the way we think about the elderly today is the way folks will think about us tomorrow – and nothing scares us more.
But if our starting point is Christ, then things dramatically change. I have an answer for the lady in the wheelchair and I have an answer for my own restless spirit. The impact and the import of being created Imago Dei, in the image of God, reminds us of the sacrosanct nature of human life. Written and woven into the fabric of every human being is an inherent worth that transcends every imaginable pursuit. Our business is the business of being created in God’s image and that does not waver or change with the tides of age and mobility. In fact, the closer we are to death, the closer we are to experiencing the very thing that caused God the Father to glorify the Son – his willingness to endure the cross despising the shame.
And that, my precious sister whose name I don’t know, is your business here. Live it well.