Eternity in Our Hearts

I was pondering the life to come as I sat behind the wheel of my parked car outside my youngest daughter’s apartment. I had just driven her home and was waiting for her to bid me leave.

I was pondering the life to come… what would it be like? After my last breath, what would the experience be like? What would it be like to meet my maker and saviour? How ecstatic would it be? The thought (anticipation) is clouded with a measure of uncertainty.

Just then my daughter came running out of the house in panic.

“There’s a bird in my room!” she said.

The bird, a brown eurasian tree sparrow, was flying around in short bursts, and landing all over the place — on the stairs, in a corner beside the dresser, and on the bed! I saw that it couldn’t fly high up to the ceiling, I thought it was just a baby bird learning how to fly.

After a couple of attempts, I finally caught the little creature.

I held the tiny sparrow in the hollow of my hand. I stroked its head softly to somehow try to assure it that I don’t mean it harm. I thought to take it home (couple blocks away) with me and care for it until it was strong enough to fly. I went back to the car, looking at the face of the tiny feathered creature in my hand.

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The thought then occured to me: I am this tiny little sparrow, and God is me holding the sparrow in the hollow of my hand. If I clenched my fist tight, it would snuff the life of the hapless bird, instantly. But I wouldn’t do that. I cared for the poor thing.

God could snuff me out, physically and spiritually, in an instant. But he doesn’t. Because God cares for me, infinitely greater than I do for the sparrow.

When I got home, I put the sparrow in a temporary cage — a slotted basket with a removable cover. As I was placing newspaper strips inside for the sparrow’s beddings, it flew out of the basket, and outside our front door. I realized it was really strong enough to fly.

It should feel like that, after your last breath. It should feel like being set free (your soul) to fly out of the house into the open air where you were meant.

Here, in the body, you are kept by the power and grace of God, in the hollow of his hand. There, in the life to come, you will finally be set free from all sin, to live in perfect righteousness and fullness of joys for evermore.

God “has set eternity in our hearts,” Ecc.3.11.

the power of internal conflict

internal conflict is one of the most difficult conflicts to resolve.  the conflict involves no one else but yourself.  it is a conflict of principles you both uphold in your mind and believe in.

when these two principles are headed on a collision course, you are torn inside to make a hard choice.  what you choose either gives you pleasure or shame.  depending on how consequential (historically) you are and the choice you make is, it has the power to make you either famous or infamous.  but for ordinary people, it may just be a matter of receiving approval or being dismayed.

the greatest historical figure — jesus christ — had his moment of internal conflict.  it is recorded in the gospels.  it happened in the garden of gethsemane as jesus contemplated his death.  “Father, all things are possible to you, take this cup from me, yet not what i will, but what you will,” mark 14.36.  jesus had both the right to live and a choice to die. this was the internal conflict he wrestled with.  he chose to die, not because death was a pleasant choice, but because it was his father’s will.  it was his ultimate pleasure to do his father’s will, though it meant giving up his own life.

hours after the above event, a moment of internal conflict — a crucial decision will bring infamy to another man.  pontius pilate’s mind was screwed by his internal conflict — to free jesus who was innocent thus satisfying his noble sense of roman justice, or crucify him to appease the clamor of the jewish mob, satisfying his ignoble political desires.  he chose the latter.  pilate ordered jesus to be crucified.  “wanting to satisfy the crowd… he had jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified,” mark 15.15.  pontius pilate goes down in history as the all-infamous magistrate.

with great power comes great responsibility.

the psalms of the old testament are full of expressions of the internal conflict that the godly man experiences.  a couple of psalms that immediately come to mind are psalm 73 and 42.  there are many other psalms.

in psalm 73 the writer expresses his internal conflict in this manner: why do the wicked (who forget God) prosper and are enriched while those (himself) who fear and serve God suffer and are chastised all day long — is God indeed good to those who fear him?  i envied the arrogant, when i saw the prosperity of the wicked… in vain i have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. all day long i have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments,” psalm 73.3, 13, 14.

the internal conflict of the writer in psalm 42 bears some relation to that of psalm 73.  both of them ask why things do not appear to be happening according to what they believe about God or who they believe God to be — a good and faithful God the those who fear and trust him, and an avenger to those who forget him.  but in psalm 42 the psalmist’s complaint does not stem from the apparent prosperity enjoyed by the wicked, but on God’s apparent inaction to save him, thereby giving his enemies fuel to mock him and his religion (faith in God).  “i say to God my rock, “why have you forgotten me? why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” my bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “where is your God?”” psalm 42.9, 10.

one other passage (not in the psalms) is in habakkuk, where the prophet says, “thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on iniquity; wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously?” habakkuk 1.13.  habakkuk’s mind was wrecked by a different kind of internal conflict.  his internal conflict was provoked by seeing events not directly happening to him, but to nations at large.  nonetheless, it was equally difficult to resolve.

in all three instances, the internal conflict is resolved by faith — steadfast, unwavering faith.  faith that believes what God revealed about himself — he is holy, just, faithful, and kind — in spite of appearances toward the contrary.

“i have set the LORD always before me, because he is at my right hand, i shall never be moved,” psalm 16.8.

50 something

as my day ends — “my day” because it’s my birthday — i take stock of my life, an aspect of it…

i am half-broke.  broke a lot of times and unable to do things that require money to do or accomplish.  can’t afford to buy a lot of things.  can’t travel far.  can’t enjoy many pleasures.  but don’t pity me: i don’t believe that life consists in the abundance of materials things.

i am not poor by any means.  yeah, poor compared to my rich friends who have a lot of money (millions and millions) and property.  but not poor, compared to the homeless street urchin or the couples with little kids who live in pushcarts, residing anywhere they find safe shelter at, and feed off whatever convenient edible items they find rummaging in garbage dumps or on whatever kindness they receive from strangers.

i have not been too attracted to wealth.  i never chased after wealth, and wealth never chased after me.  i have a carefree attitude towards money.  why?  i am not sure.  it may be genetic (born this way,) accidental (ended up this way,) environmental (grew up this way,) or religious (faith led me this way.)

i was born this way.  no one can challenge that.  i was born with the carefree gene.  too carefree to care about anything (be it failure or success) at all — and money.  it’s an empty void as dense as a black hole.  doesn’t make life easy at all!

i may have become a carefree person as a result of a head injury i sustained when i was a year old.  i remember everything around me visually spinning when i hit my forehead on the sharp corner of the glass-covered center table in our living room.  something blacked out inside my frontal lobe.  i was rushed, bleeding, to the ER — received so many stitches above my cracked right eyebrow.  there is a hitman — a cold assassin — inside of me.

but growing up may have also taught me that happiness is not only achieved by having a lot of money, and whatever a lot of money can buy.  yes, i learned that it could give you that happiness.  but i also learned that it is not only money and the things money can buy that can give you happiness.

i learned that friends, the company of friends — the ones who aren’t bought with money, that is — are a genuine source of happiness for me.  much more happiness than the things money can buy can give.  in this regard i consider my friends much more valuable than money — losing friends is a greater loss to me than losing money.  how much money can you price-tag a friend?  and, of course, family — their love, and the happiness they give — that can never be replaced!

my faith in God has also taught me to trust in him despite appearances of hard times.  it’s a divine catch-22: God tells me, “since you are content with little wealth, why should i give you more?  i’d give you more faith instead, and just enough money.”  and, in the divine economy in heaven, i learned that faith is more valuable than earthly wealth.

as far as health is concerned, it always declines, never improves.  when you hear your doctor say, “your health is improving!” or “you look better!” either you’re recovering from a stroke or a triple bypass operation, or he’s just commenting on the visible rejuvenating effects of stem-cell therapy or viagra on your general outlook in life.  50 somethings’ health is never improving, always declining.

i am 50 something.