What Really Matters

Today on USAToday.com Ann Oldenburg has a story entitled “Jane Fonda: I have ‘so little time left.'” Oldenburg’s post, in USA Today‘s Life section, is not really much of a story. Rather it is a overview of a recent Fonda blog post, with extensive quotes from the post. The gist of it is that Fonda, who is 76, has recently been “contemplating her age, her mortality, her emotions.” Nothing wrong with that, of course, and I suppose rather fitting for anyone who is 76 years old. In reality, though, I think such reflection is appropriate for any person of any age. My hope and prayer, though, would be that such reflection has a completely different result than what Fonda shared.

“How come,” Fonda wrote, “pretty things, kind deeds, sad stories, acts of courage, good news, someone’s flax [sic] of insight, all get me crying or, at least, tearing up?” We’ve probably all been around people like that at one time or another, and I suppose we’ve all even been that person at one time or another–seemingly over-emotional and “touched” by even the littlest things. Fonda’s conclusion is that her emotions are “way more accessible” than they were when she was younger and they are so because she has come to the realization that her remaining time is precious. “I have become so wonderfully, terribly aware of time, of how little of it I have left; how much of it is behind me, and everything becomes so precious,” she wrote.

Such a perspective is, of course, biblical. James 4:14 says, “[Y]et you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (ESV). I like how The Living Bible words that verse: “How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone.” In other words, whether we are 76 or 36 or 16, we have no idea how many more days we have ahead of us. Fonda has been blessed to live to 76. She seems to be in good health and, who knows, she may live another couple of decades. She doesn’t know, and neither do I (I’m at the 36 mark myself).

It is because we do not know how many days we have on earth that we must use what days we do have wisely. Paul wrote, in Ephesians 5:16, “[make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The ERV presents the verse this way: “I mean that you should use every opportunity you have for doing good, because these are evil times.” The Amplified Bible says “buy up every opportunity,” and the Contemporary English Version says “make every minute count.” This is not a message that is unique to the Bible; you hear it often at events like high school commencements and you hear it from plenty of motivational speakers. The reminder to use our time wisely is one we all need.

Sadly, Fonda does not seem to have grasped the “using time wisely” concept. The things that she has determined are important and that move her during these limited days she suggests she has left are things that may have merit but they are not things or eternal significance. Fonda says she now sees the beauty in the small things, and wonders if maybe part of the reason is not that she will soon be on the other side of the dirt. “Maybe, without my being conscious of it, there’s the reality that in a few decades (if I’m lucky) I will be in the earth, fertilizing some of the very things I look at now and tear up over,” she wrote. I don’t know about you, but thinking about the possibility of becoming plant food is not something that would cause me to tear up in any good way. When her time is up, and she does die, Fonda’s wishes are quite simple: “I’m not going to be cremated, uses up too much energy and gives off too many toxins, nor do I want to be in a coffin. Just dump me in a hole and let me morph into whatever as quickly as possible.”

Fonda’s worldview is evident in her interpretation of what happens after death. “Morphing into whatever” is not what happens, of course. (I have to reiterate, though, that if that is what I believed I really cannot imagine being so sanguine about it). Those who hold a biblical worldview believe that they must “redeem the time” because we are stewards of our time, we are to make the most of the minutes, days and years we have on earth, drawing closer to the Lord ourselves and pointing others to Him by the way in which we lead our lives. That can be done in many ways, in many places and in any occupation or activity. Those who believe the Bible seek to make the most of their days because they know that death is not the end.

Fonda evidently believes that death is the end. What that has motivated her to care about seems odd to me, though. She writes, “I ache for unwanted children in the world,” and I can understand that one. Children who have no one to love them, who face each day struggling one their own for survival, are a legitimate cause of emotion, of caring, of tearing up. That kind of care and compassion motivates people to action–people like Katie Davis, who founded Amazima Ministries and has adopted many little girls in Uganda while working to improve life for hundreds more.

But what else does Fonda care about besides unwanted children? Here is the complete thought from her blog: “I ache for unwanted children in the world, for polar bears, and elephants, whales and Monarch butterflies, and dolphins, gorillas and chimpanzees.” Though I suspect she did not intend it to, the rest of Fonda’s statement completely nullifies her concern for unwanted children. Taken as a whole, Fonda’s “aches” for various wildlife minimizes her ache for unwanted children. When one sees unwanted children on the same plane as polar bears and butterflies one has a tremendously warped sense of God’s creation. Polar bears and butterflies and dolphins and maybe even gorillas are beautiful and wonderful and part of God’s creation, but they are nowhere near as important as children. Only human beings are created in God’s image. Only human beings have a soul. Only human beings will live for eternity. Yes, we must be good stewards of the earth and demonstrate proper care for creation, but we must never allow children and critters to be considered equals.

Towards the end of her blog Fonda wrote, “Maybe because I’m older my heart is wider open, like a net that wants to catch all the things that matter.” Let us not forget, however, that when everything matters equally, nothing matters.