Pinch a thread between your fingers.* This is your life’s timeline. Tie a knot as close to the end as you can. This marks your birth. Another inch along, tie another knot. This is where you turned sixteen, attended Worldview Academy. Another inch, another knot. This is where you got married, did your work, watched the world (and yourself) change. One more knot. This is your death.
What happens now? Hold the knot that marks your death in your left hand and spool out the thread as far as you can reach to your right. That little bit still dangling over there was all your earthly lifetime. That was where you learned to talk. Swam in a river. Fell in love. Felt betrayed. Failed yourself and the people you didn’t want to hurt. Cried out to God on your darkest day. And finally waited for Him to say your time was up. So what is this vast expanse of time that you hold in your wingspan? It’s the beginning of your real life. It’s your first year in Eternity. It’s the part where you meet your believing ancestors. And Corrie ten Boom. And St. John. And Noah. It’s the part you see Jesus face to face, and it’s like coming Home.
The longest part of your life will be lived in the resurrection. Build your hopes on that!
This great and glorious family will welcome you. You’ll hear their stories, learn their languages. And it might be overwhelming. But for the first time in your life, you will learn things without impatience. For the first time in your life, you will love things without envy. You will laugh so hard and eat and drink in the company of clever, honest, brilliant, hilarious, impossibly diverse people who can tell you everything you never knew. And you’ll fit right in.
But you’re still standing there awkwardly with a thread between your outstretched hands. Try this: still holding that little knot that marks your death, toss the rest of the spool of thread down the hallway, or across the parking lot, or down a mountainside. The spool will run out of thread before you’ve run out of living. You, in bodily health and strength and clarity of mind, will go on living, and living, and living, and living. “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” says the Creed. Do you? If you don’t, or if you live as though you don’t, you are of all people most to be pitied.
Live your life with a biblical worldview. Pursue truth & grace at our bridge year program, Worldview at the Abbey. Learn more, here, in this piece by August Huckabee.
We are most to be pitied if we allow ourselves to drown in our own expectations. We are most to be pitied if we are crushed by the burden to achieve more than our neighbor. We are most to be pitied if we give in to “guilt-panic” (my pet sin). You know, the emotional freak-out that happens when we can never satisfy the voice that says, “Yes, but you could be better, faster, more healthy, more authentic, more frugal, more generous, more, more …”? These “high standards” are merely an arrogant assertion of control over our ourselves, our environment, even other people. We are most to be pitied if we think that ruling our own lives is the best we can hope for.
I believe that I’m headed for Heaven (and soon!), but that doesn’t always change how I feel. I can still feel like I’m drowning. I can be furious at myself for my failures. I can watch myself make bad choices, be sarcastic with my children, allow my hormones or hunger or illness (or whatever) become excuses for selfishness, and it kills me. And it’s killing all of us, and one day the wages of sin will catch up with us, and we will die. But then! Oh, then, covered by His death in our place, we will be welcomed Home to the best part of our lives. And that life begins here, on this bit of string that is too short and too flimsy to build our hopes on.
Your life may have started in suffering, but the longest part of it (in Christ) will be lived in glory.
The longest part of your life will be lived in the resurrection. Build your hopes on that! You are a mom, dad, student, worker, boss, spouse, for now. You have a disability, an illness, a pain, a hopeless situation, for now. Your life may have started in suffering, but the longest part of it (in Christ) will be lived in glory. And He is the wine-giver of Cana; He knows how to throw a good party.
You won’t find everything you’re looking for during your short earthly lifetime. But the unimaginable adventure ahead of you couldn’t possibly fit into this flimsy, sin-weakened world anyway. So stop your striving. Love your people. Give ‘em Heaven. Because soon and forever, you’ll be safe Home.
* * *
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only,
we are of all people most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15, ESV
*Note: I’m shamelessly stealing this object lesson from my dad, R. M. Hintze, who served faithfully as Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Westminster, MA from 1977 – 2014, when he went Home where he is waiting for me.