I told you before about how Jan used to love to talk. Yep, she was a real Chatty Cathy.
Like that one time when we were returning from a wedding some two hours from our home. We left Melrose, Florida at about ten o’clock, and I decided I would just see how long she could chatter. I never uttered a word. Seriously, not a word. When we arrived in our home in Trenton, I shut off the engine in our 1998 Chevy Astro Van (coolest ride I ever had), and just stared at her.
“Why are you staring at me?” She asked.
“Because I have been timing you to see how long you could talk without stopping.”
She had that look on her face that told me I might have crossed the line ….again. “And how long did I talk?”
“Two hours and three minutes.”
She glared at me for what seemed to be a couple of hours. It only seemed that long. Like when you were sitting in the principal’s office for five minutes, but it seemed like forever. Time stands still when you’re in trouble.
Suddenly, she broke out in uncontrollable laughter. You know the kind of laughter I’m talking about. She lost her breath, and when she inhaled again it sounded like an owl screeching. Tears began to roll down her face.
When she regained her composure, she said, “Well, I guess I just have a gift.”
Jan doesn’t talk like that anymore. I kind of miss it.
I’ve never been one to think that life goes on forever. And it never stays the same.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that lesson. A few times. At the time, I hated it. Now? Well, I don’t like the circumstances one bit, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned . It kind of taught me to look beyond.
When I was five years old, my infant sister died of SIDS on Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget the sound of my mother’s voice as she told my father that my sister wasn’t breathing. Then the next July, my next sister was born blind. When I was thirteen, our house burned to the ground. The only thing we salvaged was my mother’s iron skillet (she still uses it to this day).
Even though you think you can prepare for loss or hardship, it always hits you between the eyes like a sack of concrete. It comes out of nowhere. And it always hurts. Cancer, death, Alzheimer’s, car accidents, or any of the host of human hardships that come our way are easy to rationalize away in the abstract – before they happen to us. But when we come face-to-face with the enraged bear that we always feared, they aren’t so easy to whisk away.
I don’t like it, and neither do you.
But do you know why we are so uncomfortable with the frailties of human life? Do you know why the dread of human loss fills our hearts with raging fear?
The truth is that we were not created to lose. We weren’t fashioned in the image of God just to die a horrible death. We were not created to get cancer or any other disease. God didnt create us in his image just to lose us to an accident. Loss is the consequence of living in a broken and sin-cursed world.
So we long for more. In fact, we don’t just long for the restoration of things to some nostalgic past in our lives, we long for the restoration of things to the place where they were in the beginning – before the Fall…the restoration of things to the place where they should have been all along. We long for eternity – for the complete redemption of our bodies and all of creation from our bondage to decay.
We long for eternity, but most of the time we don’t even know what we are desiring. It confuses us.
Jan and I are building a new house. I can’t wait for it to be completed.
But in reality, it’s only a temporary – a very temporary – fix to an eternal problem. For a few years, we won’t be faced with the prospect of replacing our septic tank or repairing a broken plumbing pipe. At least I hope not. But the truth is that it won’t really be all that long before our new house becomes older and we will be forced to make repairs.
This is why I pray for God to lead me to put my hope in eternity…in what God has done for me through Christ. I can’t name a single thing that will endure the test of time. Not one single thing that will endure a lifetime. Possessions? Most of them will end up at a thrift store. A perfect body? Forget about it. College degrees? Successful businesses? Vacations? A thriving ministry? It’s all meaningless junk. Really!
So what I find myself thinking about more and more is the future hope I have that all things will be put in order – permanently. At some future point, the blinders will be taken off of my failing eyes, and I will clearly see what really matters. I’m in the present, and I’m struggling with the failings of my sinful nature, but I’m living for the day when I won’t be – for the day when the chains are broken permanently. I long for that “aha” moment when I finally get it in a way that I can’t get it now.
Jan doesn’t jabber any more. Never! But I think that the words that do come out of her heart now are more poignant than ever before. Just today, we were riding in the truck through the woods. The leaves are really turning color this year. For North Louisiana, they are putting on a show. A large buck ran in front of us. She sighed and said, “I just don’t get it how anyone could look at the order and beauty of creation and not acknowledge that God is real. How do folks live like there’s no God?”
That’s all she said. Really! But in one or two sentences she made the most compelling argument for the reality of a loving and benevolent God. She was saying that she knows he’s real because she can see his handiwork.
Yes, I miss the Jan that she used to be. But I’m no fool – I’m grateful for the Jan she is now. As I’ve told you before, she isn’t as “useful” to me as she once was. I am privileged to lay out her clothes and direct her steps. She doesn’t cook my meals or organize my laundry like she used to do. But I don’t care. I can hire that done…or do it myself.
I just want to enjoy the time that God has given us to spend with one another. She doesn’t talk as much, but when she does, I want to be there to hear it. Sometimes it’s so profound that it amazes me.
I’m I just want to make sure that I’m invested in the things that really matter, and none of the things that really matter are the things I run after.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for being distracted. I want to be laser-focused on what is eternal. I want so badly to be free of my attachment to things that don’t last. But that voice inside of my head? It whispers to me – it beckons me to embrace and engage. And once it has me in its clutches, it refuses to release me. But you? You raise the dead. Your voice is clearer and stronger. Teach me to hear it. Teach me to long for something more than my own past – for the nostalgia of it all. Teach me to long for what you created me to enjoy – something I’ve never had and will not fully have until you make things in your creation right again. In my head I hear the automatic gunfire of spiritual warfare. Silence them! Compel them to cease so that I can hear only your voice…the voice of love and reason…the voice of a sound mind…the voice that urges me to embrace eternity.