As a child, eternity was easy to understand: It lived in the days and
hours leading up to Christmas -- and the time we opened presents.
Sometimes it was found in the weeks and minutes before that special
birthday gift, long anticipated, could be opened and enjoyed. Finally,
we knew it as that longest of all youthful eternities -- the seconds
ticking away for months on end leading up to the coveted driver's
license. It was eternity alone that separated us from freedom.
Eternity travels with great expectations as its baggage. As adults,
we think that eternity is pleasure, or money, or power, or sex, or
things. In our pursuit of them, we play with God -- or curse him -- as
our circumstances dictate. Yet, in the end, those of us who choose this
path find that we never really knew him. There we are, children again
for only a moment, watching as silently he passes us by, never even
glancing back at us and our lifetime of accumulated treasures, our life
force spent to buy his company in eternity. In his wake, the pleasure no
longer stimulates. The power and the money and the sex don't matter; and
there we stand: awash in our things. We are left holding the bag as the
train departs the station. His words echo in our mind: Depart from me; I
never knew you. Eternity and the one who inhabits it are one and the
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During our lives, we put off knowing him; too busy, you know. Yet, we
failed to understand that eternity was never a time or a place. Eternity
was ever a person. We should have known; we were made in his image.
Silently, he moves across time and space -- indeed -- inhabits them. Yet
unaware of the gentle disturbances of his movements, we never sought him
out, never asked his company nor sought his advice. He was there; though
we had eyes, we failed to see. Now we are identified mainly by our
baggage, circling endlessly upon the conveyor belt of time, the
loudspeaker blaring over and over again the announcement of our
impending departure from the only world we ever knew.
As a human family, we know all too well that eternity exists.
Throughout history, we have built monuments to him, worshipped him,
feared him, and finally, despite our best efforts, departed to meet him.
Childhood taught us that eternity was not Father Time, for he came and
left while we were yet opening the packages under the Christmas tree,
nor in the instant we wished so hard, seated there between Mom and Dad
in front of the birthday cake, before blowing out the flickering candle
flames. Soon the bicycle that we had waited an eternity for was
scratched, its spokes mangled, the car door opened by the new driver's
license dented -- leaving our lives much the same as they were before
his brief visit. Eternity came -- but not for us. Not now, our heart
said. Later, when there is more time. So he left us, unchanged, our
lives scattered among the glitter and shredded wrappings of our
half-opened presents. Time marches on, yet we stay the people we always
Ever the optimist, most of us believe that we will always see him one
more time. Perhaps next year at Christmas, hiding among the presents.
But that turns out to be the year we know deep inside that he is not
coming back. We open the presents, but without anticipation. He will
never return. Still we could ask, yet we are too proud. The last
Christmas comes; the final birthday present is opened, and there we are,
alone, holding the bag stuffed with our money and things. Gone is the
hope he brought; ahead lies only the empty blackness, forever.
It was Jesus' half brother, Jude, who so well described the fate of
those who separate eternity from the person of God: Raging waves of the
sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved
the blackness of darkness forever (Jude 1:13).