It is the season of dying things…gardens, leaves, mosquitoes…and of funerals. Our ‘small group’ lost a member this week. Funerals have a way of bringing life as we know it to a halt and making us look at the life just beyond this one, the life we have a hard time keeping in view as being really real and accessible in the snap of a finger…The fellow who left us was born in 1965, making him younger than me. He was a whole-hearted believer. He was confident too that God would heal him, but the time-frame wasn’t what we earthlings had hoped for.
This eternal life we’ve embarked on has no such limitations. It goes on and on, but the best of it begins just where life as we know it stops. There’s the bump in the road that causes so much grief—to the ones left waiting for their turn.
Paul saw life clearly in this respect, perhaps because he was given a glimpse of life in the heavenlies. He came right out and said it: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better”. (Phil.1:23) He had no delusions about life here being something to cling to for selfish reasons. He had already dedicated his life entirely to the cause of the Gospel, intent on honoring Christ in His body, whether by life or by death. Life here wasn’t about himself. (gulp) Consequently, he was ready and waiting to go be with the One who was His Life. And at the same time, he was content to ‘do his time’ imprisoned in his physical body if it would mean an opportunity to serve His Lord by building up His Body here and now.
Maybe I don’t fully share his perspective because my life here and now still has some ‘perks’ for me. I’ve woken this morning for instance, in the home of my grandbabies!–here to visit for a week, and hear sweet baby talk and the patter of little feet racing to and fro for the sheer joy of it!
And there’s still beauty in this world. The drive yesterday was awesome, in the true sense of the word. The dark evergreens are scattered with brilliant splashes of gold. And reds and oranges punctuate the world before it fades to winter’s sleep. Really quite remarkable that trees go through this surprising metamorphosis—leaves don’t just turn brown and crumble into nothingness. First there is the parting brilliance. For our brother this brilliance wasn’t seen in a supernatural gift of physical healing, but in the confidence that he would see us all later. He went out declaring his to be a win/win situation–either “supernatural or see-ya’ later”.
Ha! is that what is meant to happen in the fall of our lives? We don’t just descend to the grave. First we are alight with the hope of the world beyond, a glimpse of things eternal, a faith that overcomes our fears and lights our faces…the indelible mark of the Spirit of God housed within and breathing life eternal…O death where is thy sting? Grave where is thy victory?
This is where all the ‘good things’ of this life point isn’t it? The innocence of babies, the carefree laughter of children, the beauty of nature—all are meant not to bond us to this world but to point us to the next, to point us to the place His glory dwells in its fullness. A glory from which all the beauty and wonder and sweetness in this life is derived. Ahh let me keep my bearings, celebrating this fall season and its glory, but not clinging. Ready to live or die as pleases my Maker, for His glory…
I need to remind myself often of Paul’s perspective: “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body…” Phil.3:20,21
And I couldn’t help being reminded of it when I saw this picture taken by my sister. It is of an old old house that stood all our childhoods abandoned on a neighboring acre… hidden from our view amongst trees…It stands clearly in view in this photo because all the surrounding trees have been cut down– a housing development is moving in and this house is the last to fall, thus the picture just before the devastation… Reminds me of Paul’s words, and with them I close.
…though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal…
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight (IICor.4:16ff)
Do you see the brightness in that window? As if something were shining from within? May such be true of us—shining with the treasure inside all the days of our lives!