Faithfully yours - Words etched in stone


Neil Strohschein
Neepawa Banner & Press 

There is a considerable gap in age between the oldest member of our family (me) and the youngest—a fact of which I am often reminded. A few years ago, when he was asked if he knew how old I was, he said: “I’m not sure of Neil’s exact age; but I do know that his birth certificate is etched in stone.” We still laugh whenever we think of how good that comeback really was.

Well, let me assure you that my birth certificate is not etched in stone. They had paper ones by the time I was born. But one day, my name will be etched in stone; on a piece of marble that will identify the resting place of my earthly remains. And I wonder what words, if any, my family will choose to summarize my life and how I will be remembered.

The best I can hope for would be a simple phrase: “He was faithful.” I know I will never deserve such an epitaph; but living up to that standard is what keeps me striving to be a better person and do better work, whatever that work might be.

The phrase itself comes from a statement St. Paul made in the fourth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. From the moment of his conversion, Paul knew that he had been called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to people who lived beyond the borders of ancient Israel. This was not a task he could pass on to anyone else. It was his calling. It was his work to do. He had to carry out his assigned tasks until his work on earth was done.

In like manner, you and I have received callings from God—callings to work in a specific job or career, to be part of a family, to live in a community and to care for those around us. These tasks cannot be assigned to anyone else. They have been given to us and, just like St. Paul, we must be faithful to our calling. What did this mean for Paul? And what does it mean for us?

First, it means that we stick with a task until it is completed. We don’t abandon it the moment the work gets hard or public applause disappears. We keep doing the work and serving the people God has called us to serve until God tells us that our work is done and we can move on.

Second, it means that we are committed to excellence in everything we do. Not perfection. That is a standard we will never achieve. By excellence, I mean “doing the best we can do, in a given situation, with the resources that we have on hand.” Those with more can do more. Those with less might not be able to do as much, but they can still do it to the best of their ability.

Third, being faithful means remaining true to existing relationships—for better or worse. Every relationship has its trying times. Faithful people are willing to ride out the rough times, knowing that we are always stronger in endurance, character and faith once the trying times are over.

Finally, being faithful means putting our faith in God and trusting him to help us complete the work he placed us on this earth to do. When we do God’s work in God’s way, he will give us the things we need to complete the task. He will always be faithful to us. Our task is to be faithful to him.