We are witnessing an incredible response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The thousands queuing for hours on end to file past her lying in State will be talked about for generations. And the funeral tomorrow will be a unique, global event like no other in history.
The power of reaction to her death cannot just be ascribed to national pride or nostalgic impulse. The heartfelt response reflects gratitude for both the length of her public role and the depth of respect for her dedication and service: for her integrity between public role and personal behaviour.
Mother Teresa’s famous words are worth repeating and remembering:
‘We cannot do great things: only small things with great love.’
Just as a house is built with thousands of individual bricks, our lives are built from countless, daily decisions. Whoever we are, we all have a choice how we build.
All deaths are a prompt to reflect on how we are building our lives. And the death of a national figure is a collective opportunity for the whole country: are we building with love, generosity, commitment and kindness? Or with selfishness, greed and bitterness?
Choices and destiny
The daily decisions we make are of incalculable importance. It is beyond our capability to know which decisions will end up being significant and which will be inconsequential.
The choice to reach out to someone struggling might make a life-changing difference. The decision to forgive someone who has hurt you might resuscitate a dying relationship. The choice to volunteer might save a whole community project.
But conversely, the split second decision to use your phone whilst driving could be the biggest mistake of your life. The ‘white lie’ to get you out of an awkward moment at work could spiral into deceit which costs you your job. The careless words said in anger which could crush someone else.
Whether for good or ill, we can never fully know the impact of what we do.
The small adds up
But also, the small things we do each day have a cumulative effect. Over time, our daily choices add up; the small things become The Big Thing.
- Our choices become our habits
- Our habits become our character
- Our character becomes our destiny
What choices have you made in years gone by which have now become habits? How have these habits over time affected your character? How may your character affect your future direction and your ultimate destiny?
Prism of faith
Tomorrow millions will watch a church service where the Queen’s death will be mourned, and her life celebrated, through the prism of the Christian faith. The service will reflect the faith that framed the Queen’s whole sense of duty and purpose.
Her commitment as monarch was rooted in something deeper than patriotic duty. She saw it as a sacred duty: a commitment she made before God in her coronation vows.
No assessment of the Queen’s life makes sense without proper acknowledgement of her Christian faith.
Too often faith is viewed as something mainly to do with the after-life, the supernatural or the spiritual. This can make it something very churchy, religious and disconnected from the everyday, practical and earthy realities of life.
But the Christian faith is also a belief in the inter-connectedness of all things: whether seen or unseen. That every choice is holy and significant because it is done before a God who sees everything. Our choices can either serve God’s purposes of justice, mercy and grace – or do the opposite.
Another great public Christian, Martin Luther King, once wrote:
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and the Queen were all high profile public figures. But perhaps its their personal commitments which have the most to teach us.