I've been thinking about the phrase "At the end of the day." Anyone who has ever enjoyed a little pontification, (and who doesn't need to pontificate once in a while?) has used this phrase in one form or another.
"At the end of the day..." It's used often by those seeking to win an argument. "At the end of the day, when you lay down your head and really think about it, you KNOW I'm right." I think this is an effective tool of rhetorical ambush, not because the user actually thinks his or her prey really lays in bed at night thinking "He/She's right, I really do believe this way." But rather because it plants seeds of doubt in someone who is not as good at winning a dialogue. "You know, maybe I am wrong about this. They sure seemed to know what they are talking about."
But usually intentions are more pure when using "At the end of the day..." I actually love the phrase because it encourages us to strip away all the surface crap and get to the bottom of what really matters.
"At the end of the day, all you really need is Milk and Cookies" equals "The only thing that really matters are the simple enjoyments of life."
Or take this quote I used recently, from Grey's Anatomy: "At the end of the day, all we really want is to be close to somebody" equals, well, it's pretty self explanatory. What really matters is having somebody.
What's interesting, however, is when we talk to people we get a million different "At the end of the days," suggesting what really matters isn't universal, but rather conditioned by circumstance.
But I find this hard to believe. Maybe at the end of the day there are LOTS of things we need, but in order to press our agenda or to make life easier we pretend there's really not that much.
The only things the apostle Paul believed mattered at the end of the day were faith, hope, and love. We read this famous passage in Corinthians and say "Look, it's really VERY simple. Just three things, and really only one, when you consider love is the greatest." But how simple do we really believe faith, hope, and love is? Sometimes I don't even know what faith MEANS.
But I try.
I usually wake up very early, so at the end of my day I'm usually not thinking about much except closing my eyes. But like many people I spend a fair amount of time winding down at night, contemplating. Work factors in a lot, as do finances. Mostly, though, I think about people. People I miss, people I've spent the day with, and people I hope to see soon. I sometimes say a prayer. I've even been known to cry myself to sleep, although that hasn't happened in a while.
At the end of the day there are a million things that matter. Some simple, some as complicated as hell. But this is what I love about the Christian message of heaven, and I do mean the Old Time Religion version of heaven: There will come a day when all we find important at the end of these days will be shown for what they really are-- dreams and indicators of Another Place, a place, as Margaret Becker has written, "Where hope reigns supreme. Where thoughtful, demonstrative love is shown in microscopic ways."
The end of that day will be worth getting to.