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Surprised by Eternity


There's that scene in Elf when Buddy is testing out Jack-in-the-Boxes. Every single time it pops up, and every single time he gets scared. He's got a huge pile of toys, and yet he's surprised every time. We laugh at him, but we're like that too.

Every moment of every day, time passes. Things change. The cells in our bodies, our children's bodies, are aging every second that goes by. Yet a birthday comes, and we are shocked at how old they've become. At how old we've become. That it's Christmas again. That it's summer again. That they are leaving for college. That we are getting gray hair. That our children are getting gray hair.

I'm 42. How can I possibly be 42? How can that much time have gone by? Yet I'll think the same thing when I'm 52, and 62. The passage of time never stops, and yet I'm always shocked.

We have five weeks left until the end of the school year. How can that be possible? Yet what's weirder is that I think that every single year. Just like Buddy the Elf. I never cease to be surprised.

I wonder why? You would think that after all this time, I would be used to it by now. I'm always striving towards something, either for something to be over (let's get those report cards finished; let's get to the day when all my kids can brush their own teeth; let's get the car fixed once and for all) or for something to happen (I'm counting the days until I see my family, I can't wait to go on that trip, I can't wait for Christmas to come).

The tasks always get finished. The things I wait for always come. And then life moves on. But there's always more tasks. And looking back on things that were greatly anticipated can become a let down. The perfect moments come, but then they never last.

It's like we are wired for permanency. In the back of our minds is this notion that if we keep striving towards that or running towards this or focusing really hard on that goal, that we will get there. There is always perfect, or at least better. And then we'll stay there. Forever.

Yet it's not Forever. Whatever it is might last two seconds, and then the earth turns on its axis and another day passes. We continue our journey around the sun and the seasons change. Again and again and again.

In None Like Him, Jen Wilkin writes, "Those grasping for the comfort of certainty are blithely reminded that the only certainty is change itself."

I keep thinking about that: The only certainty is change itself. In a world that seems to be falling apart around us, that truth helps me let go of so much frenzied striving for perfection. It also gives me hope that whatever seems unchangeable can always be redeemed.

Yet that inborn sense that we are headed towards something, that there's a purpose that all of us are aspiring for, that there's an overarching story that has a last page with a happily ever after--that feeling is so strong that there's got to be Truth to it. If all of us feel that pull towards permanency, certainty, stability, eternity, then isn't it probable that it does actually exist--behind the veil, through the wardrobe, on the other side?

Could it be that God has put eternity into man's heart? That we are consistently surprised by the passage of time because we were created for eternity?

Jen Wilkin writes, "Every circumstance you encounter will change except the circumstance of your forgiveness. Every possession you own will pass away except the pearl of your salvation. Every relationship you enter into will waver except your adoption by your heavenly father."

There's a strange comfort in the acceptance of change in this wrecked world. It allows me to loosen my hold on things that point me towards regret or despair. It helps me not to idolize those beautiful, perfect moments that always slip through my fingers. Instead, may they be tastes of eternity, reminders of what's coming. May they increase my craving for the God who will never change, and who has created me for Eternity. Encountering it might be a different kind of surprise: Oh, this is what I was made for!

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