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.