I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18: 1-2
One of the most inspiring men I have ever met in my life was named John. Though he died from cancer only six months after we met, he not only became a dear friend, but someone whose memory and whose faith still inspires me years later. While I have many memories of our six month friendship, one memory that stands out the most is something he said to me one day, when we were talking in church.
Because he wasn’t sure how his fight against cancer was going to turn out, he asked me one day if he could go to confession. He said he had never done it before. So, on the appointed day, we sat in church for a very long time, as he looked back on his life. I don’t remember any of the sins he confessed—those left my memory the same day they were confessed. (I’ve was once told by an older priest that the grace of the Holy Spirit that comes on you to forgive your sins comes on me to erase my memory of them.)
I remember exactly one thing that he said that day. He looked at the icon of Christ and said “Lord, You are my everything. I think of You when I wake up, I think of You when I go to bed, I think of You during my cancer treatments. I think of You throughout the day. You are my everything.” Now, I don’t know if this thought of “Lord, You are my everything,” was a thought that John had throughout his life or only at the end of it. What I do know is that no one goes from “God is a nothing” to “God is my everything” at the drop of a hat. It takes a long time to honestly say “Lord, You are my everything.” I think that the crowning jewel of the Christian life is to get to the point where “Lord, You are my everything” is something a person believes with every bone in their body. I have no doubt that my friend John was a devout Christian for many, many years.
I share this verse, because it is one of my personal go-to verses. Whether things are going right or wrong, good or bad, I try to remember that the Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my shield, my stronghold, and ultimately my salvation. Sadly, there have been times in my life that if I wrote out, “Jesus Christ is my_________,” the answer in that blank would have been “insurance policy.” There have probably been times in just about every person’s life when they believed “just in case” it is all true. Am I at the point where I can say “Jesus Christ is my everything”? I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I can honestly say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior and my hope.” As I get older, He is becoming my “purpose”. I’m understanding that my purpose is to glorify Him. He is my rock, because at the end of the day, He is the anchor on which my life is centered. He is my fortress, He is where I go in times of trouble. He is my deliverer, because at times when it feels like I am all alone and have no one, I always have Him. He is my shield—countless times I have felt Him protecting me. Ultimately, He is my salvation. I’ve seen enough people die in my ministry that I know people die in one of two ways. They either die with confidence and joyful expectation or they die with a question mark, fear and trepidation. I know that when I die I want to have confidence and hope and this will come from believing that Christ is my salvation.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing today’s reflection in a very personal way. Because faith is personal. I have faith. I also have struggles in my faith. Today I can honestly say Jesus Christ is many things to me. I’m working for the day that I will say “He is my everything.” As for my friend John, I watch him die with a happiness that was very real and very unique. I will always believe that God knew what He was doing in putting us together for a very short period of time. I helped him walk his last mile, and he showed me how to walk it with faith. I helped him reach the goal, and he reiterated the goal to me. Jesus Christ was everything to this man at the end of his life. May He be for us as well. Memory eternal John!
I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. . .The Lord lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and subdued people under me; who delivered me from my enemies; yea, Thou didst exalt me above my adversaries; Thou didst deliver me from men of violence. For this I will extol Thee, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to Thy name. Great triumphs He give to His kind, and shows steadfast love to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever. Psalm 18: 1-3; 46-50
As an exercise today, write down these words, “Jesus Christ is my______” and then fill in the blank.  Then keep the card and every year, on your birthday, write the words again and see how the answer changes.
+Fr. Stavros