the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Eternal Now

An old friend of mine recently wrote a blog about keeping an eternal perspective in the here and now. It got me to thinking in a big way...what is an eternal perspective?

Obviously, for Christians, it is Heaven...being in the presence of God eternally, not being punished for sins on earth in eternal torment, enjoying whatever bliss God may have planned for that infinite space.

But - I think - an eternal perspective on that simply means making sure you meet the qualifications to enter Heaven upon your death. Which means acceptance of Christ as Savior. In the evangelical Christian belief system, good works don't matter - "all of our righteous deeds are filthy rags." Good works only have value as they help other people make the right decision about Christ, and therefore go to Heaven when they die.

Even as a devout conservative evangelical believer, I had doubts about this view. Certainly eternal reality meant more than just getting to Heaven. And is death the only things that demarcates the reality of eternity from our here and now? Are good works only a form of proselytyzing, trying to "bribe" others into belief because you are caring for their needs? That always bothered me, and often made me feel hypocritical when I was "doing good works."

Nowadays, I have a much different view of "eternal." I do believe in some type of consciousness beyond death - but that is only belief, I have no proof. I do not believe that eternal equals infinite in time. Eternal means - to me - different, other, above me, bigger than me. It means mystery. It means something that is so big, so vast, so incomprehensible that it brings a certain type of definition to my life.

Eternal reminds me that I am not...eternal, that is. Even if my consciousness survives my death, it won't be eternal...because it does not extend to the infinite beginning or infinite end. At some point, in this life, I will cease to be. Eternal reality helps me to understand that, embrace that, and seek to live a life that matters.

For me, eternal means now. In fact, I believe that eternal has no value at all if it does mean now. Because my time is limited, and because there is something bigger and perhaps more real than me, I am motivated to understand and live my life now with every ounce of energy I have. And there are so many ways to do that - another gift of eternal. Loving others, helping others, experiencing joy, acquiring wisdom, forgiving, trying new things, watching the glow of the sky during the sunset...and on and on.

Last summer, my family and I walked a rigourous mountain trail and came to a beautiful, isolated waterfall. I stripped off my shirt and jumped in the pool at the base before I had time to think about it...and nearly imploded with cold! I couldn't catch my breath for a few seconds; but, after that initial shock, the pristine crystal clear water, the remote location, the beautiful mountains and the perfect sky above my head brought a sense of renewal and life that I can still feel to this day. It seemed as if years poured off of my body, and pure light and life poured into my soul. I got out of the pool minutes later, but years younger.

That is eternal, and that is now.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Pastor Don (sounds odd doesn’t it?). I recently came across your blog through our mutual friend Robin. I find it both interesting and disturbing. Oddly enough, I agree with most of what you have posted.

    No doubt attempting to determine our purpose in life is a haunting proposition for anyone who really thinks about it.

    I’ve had a discussion recently with my sons regarding eternity. Remember them? You baptized some of them. (wonder if that will hold up in the court of God considering your turn to…whatever). In any case your comments about consciousness are interesting. How do you know that your “consciousness” does not extend to the infinite end? Obviously our beginning does not, or at lease it seems to us it does not.

    How could eternal have no value? Can you really conceive of a time before times? At the end of every thought is the daunting questions – what was before that? I can’t conceive of a beginning, or an end. Time can not be understood with our finite minds. Thus God. I suspect that at the moment after death we will come to realize just how wrong we were with our human logic and “higher understanding”. Including Christian, hindu taoism, buddhism.

    There are two types of minds in this world, the deep thinker and the shallow simple minded. You are the deep thinker as is my good friend Rick Ianniello: As I’ve often told him – he is the John Piper (or CS Lewis) and I’m the Billy Graham. My story, my life, my thoughts are simple. You on the other hand, have a brilliant disturbingly provocative mind. Your type seems always to live on the edge of extremes. Either the path of CS Lewis (or Rick Ianniello) or David Hawkins. But your inability to accept that some things are beyond understanding has led you to a point of supposed higher understanding. When in fact you don’t understand anything more than you did 20 years ago in Woodstock GA.

    Death will be the final enlightenment. You’ve simply traded one hope for another. As for me, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that – I Believe.