Lately I've been considering how I just seem to live my life a lot -- a little work, a little play, a little fun, a little socializing, a little exercise. But I've sorta been on autopilot, not thinking much about my life, and not really seriously including the spiritual side of things in my contemplations, except for the usual and I suppose by now rather simplistic ways.
So, in this mood, I woke up on this sunny morning prepared to meet the world. I jumped on my happy bike and rode up to and on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail to the first stop (Lafayette), and back -- to do the math for you, that's about 30 miles. Shortly after that, I went to a church ABF picnic for a few hours, including some frisbee and tennis. By the end of those activities I was, well, kinda sleepy, so I took a quick nap for a half hour or so. Strangely enough, as I came out of slumber in that half-nap sort of trance, the thought in my mind (quite out of the blue) was simply, "I'm going to live forever."
This is reminscent of other wise thoughts I've written over the past 3-6 months on the general topic of eternity. It seems that in my mind, a lot of times I really don't think about the eternal character of my existence..sure I know it's there, but it just doesn't hit home. Then, out of the blue, it will weigh down on me in crazy proportions, putting a wrench of sorts in all of my thoughts as I try once again to balance my life on this earth with the often mentioned but almost totally foreign concept of life everlasting.
So after my nap I went to the Saturday night service at church, then did a Bible study with the college folks (I invited myself to their group, even though I suppose I'm not a typical college student, and I'm almost too old, so I might overstay my welcome if I show up very often -- but that's a topic for another day). After the Bible study we watched the movie "The Burbs" with the youth pastor at the parsonage. All in all a fun evening.
During the service, my thoughts of eternity were still stirring in my mind. In these types of moments, I realize that all I do it seems is in a way irrelevant in light of eternity. There are some things that are technically irrelevant, and some things that are emotionally (seem to be) irrelevant. As I evaluate my activities, remember that almost any activity has some eternal impact, or some useful spiritual truth to impart, but what I seem to see is that almost NO activity has a fullness of eternal truth or impact, which is for some reason disheartening, as if by doing one certain thing I should be able to capture the essence of life eternal, as if one brush stroke on the canvas of life could paint the whole three-dimensional picture.
So I spend most of my waking moments during the week working. Other than that, I go to church activities, do bike riding and the occasional jog around the lake; I plant flowers and pull weeds; I play on the computer and talk to people online. Once in a while I take time to smell the green grass or watch the setting sun. In general, this is the typical setting of my "summer to drink lemonade on the beach", as I have popularized my goal of summer 2004 to be (more metaphorically than literally). As I think about these summertime activities, I also think about stuff that hasn't happened since the beginning of summer but also influences my memories -- family camp, coming up soon, the changing of the seasons again, leaf-raking and carved pumpkins, winter snowstorms, the specific bike rides that remain in my mind (see my entry of "Hidden Places"), the many friends and acquaintances that I have "fellowship" with, the communities I am involved in and the joy I can receive from them, the times gone by (and perhaps yet to come) of watching trains and hot air balloons. The times of family get-togethers (recently this summer and in previous years and in the expected weeks to come). Traveling for work and pleasure. In all of these and so many other activities, I have filled and continue to fill my life with days. Sometimes the days are filled with meaning; sometimes they almost seem wasted depending on the requirements of the day and the choices I make. But even on the best days, when I interact in meaningful ways with the most people (and the days of this week have been more interactive than is typical I think), I still can look back on them and have to wonder, "Is this like heaven? Is this like eternal life?"
I watched bits and pieces of the movie "Field of Dreams" a week or so ago, and although I really didn't watch enough to have a clue what the point of the movie was, I do like the oft-quoted line in it "Is this heaven? no it's Iowa." So in my train of thought tonight, if I think of heaven as a land of decent people and corn growing seasons -- is that an adequate picture?
Well, the answer to my questions is that simply nothing I can experience, nothing I can really even fathom, gives justice to the reality and truth of eternity. Every time I try to put my finger on an activity worthy of eternity, it lets me down in some way. No joy is ever quite joyful enough. No task is ever beneficial enough. No person or group is ever quite uplifting enough. No song ever takes me high enough. No candlelight service ever takes me deep enough. There is a "spirit of eternity" in theory, but I don't know that I've ever really been in that spirit, and in truth I don't know if it exists on this side of the reality of eternity.
So, once again, I'm left trying to balance the things in my life against God's eternal scale. But usually the balance on the scale has something to do with the eternal *value* of the activity or thought or whatever. Tonight I'm not so much talking about eternal value as some abstract, probably-unknowable feeling or "spirit of eternity", something that I can look at and say, "Yes, I know with my whole heart that I would be willing to experience a feeling like this for the rest of eternity." I know, feelings are evil and all that, so I probably shouldn't look to feelings (and, in general, I don't), but it's my web page, so tonight I will talk about it. :-) Even the most eternally beneficial things in life (ie, "real life" conversations about spiritual matters, leading the seekers to Jesus and leading Christians closer to the Source), don't always evoke the "spirit of eternity".
I think my problem lately has been too many good things. Not that I want less good things, but I need to stop and consider for a minute. It's not that the good things have left me numb or oblivious either (although that might be true). The lesson I'm trying to teach myself is simply that no matter how good an activity or situation or person is, no matter how close I feel I am to an eternal principle (whether that be the doctrine of God's unmerited favor or the sweet savor of a flowerbed), I have to realize that the good it has cannot fully (or often even partially) give an idea of the reality of eternity. It strives to, but eternity is so much more, so much the combination of everything good that any one good thing here pales in comparison. And every good thing here is evaluated in my mind at least by the rules of this world. And the rules of this world are, "Things come, and things go. There is a time to live and a time to die. There is a natural order. Life is built on a series of paradoxes. Love hurts, and love heals. The summer breezes blow, but shortly behind them are the autumn and winter winds. Things go in cycles, and while the seasons pass, people change, the world turns, nations come and go, climates change. All that is on earth will one day be no more." That sort of thinking lies beside the contemplation and appreciation of just about everything I can think of. And yet, the things of eternity are on a completely different set of rules. The rules of eternity (as if I understood them...) are something like: "Things come, and things stay. Things are good, and they only get better. God is here, and He is infinite. The summer breezes blow year round, and what of the "year", for such earthly concepts have little meaning in the place of eternal paradise. The cycles, the paradoxes, the ebb and flow, the coming and going, the birthing and dying...those earthly principles are not to be seen, and the pattern of eternity is joy unspeakable, continual, and eternal, not to experience moments of tiredness or times of dryness." So, it's hard to gather the "spirit of eternity" when we look at the things in life that glimmer of eternity, but with a set of foundations that are incongruent with eternity.
Anyway, words words words. Do they make any sense? Does anyone care? Does anyone even read these many words? Does anyone understand or feel the same way? I don't know, and maybe I don't really care. [<--- liar, I do care] Perhaps there are a few people out there who would be interested in discussing these crazy off-the-wall ethereal concepts from time to time. For the rest of the times of my life, my contemplations will be, as is typical, mostly my own affair. And I will have unique and crazy ideas to share with those around me when the time is right, and of course they will make little sense to share, since they are rather crazy and off the wall. But if you find some grain of truth to them, if they make you think about eternity and the truth of it...well, good for us all. :-) That is my goal, after all, to help me think and to inspire others to do the same.