Recently, Randy Alcorn, a Christian who writes a lot about Heaven, posted on FaceBook that you never see a hearse pulling a U-haul. It seems funny to think about. But it is also so true. Nothing I can acquire here on earth will go to Heaven with me.
In October I wrote a blog entry called “Earthly Treasures”. It was about the things that Arlynne left behind that comforted me in her absence but also revealed her character. Things like her Bible. Her daughter’s pride ring. I love having them. They make me feel closer to her. But it is just “stuff“. It was what was left after she was gone. It means something to me but I doubt she is giving it a second thought. So if she couldn’t take any of that stuff with her, why should I worry about collecting it myself? There is a story in the book of Luke in the Bible of a rich farmer who had had a very successful harvest. His barns wouldn’t hold it all. So he planned to burn down his old barns to build bigger ones to hold it all. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?'” Luke 12:20 (New Living Translation). All the stuff he had didn’t matter.
There is a temptation in our society to acquire stuff. The more the better. Pete and I enjoy watching shows like “House Hunters” on television and we are always amazed to see these small families who need these big, big houses. It is a sign of success. Just like the saying goes “he who dies with the most toys wins”. One of the things I have been most aware of in the past little while is how futile that way of thinking is. What is it all for? So we can leave it to our kids and grandkids when we are gone? What about those people who lose everything? Those who have to leave all they have behind? Or have had all they possess stolen from them? Do their lives mean that much less than mine?
This all goes along with the counter-cultural life that I have been thinking about lately. I see the pictures of the children in 3rd world countries who have nothing and it makes me feel very selfish. There they don’t have shoes yet we have all the latest toys. I have heard that God has put us in the place we are in for a reason. We live in the culture we do for His divine purpose. But I need to find out what that purpose is. Why did He give me more when so many others have so much less?
I understand about leaving something that will mark our time here. Something for others to remember us by. But I think I would rather leave a living legacy. Not pictures in a book but a group of people, family and friends, who could say that their life was impacted by how I lived mine. That I made a difference. That their lives were better because they knew me. That they saw Jesus through me.
My girlfriend was sorting through a cupboard of keepsakes that she had acquired over the last 10 years. Letters, cards, pictures. In her collection was a copy of the program from Arlynne’s funeral. On the back was a phrase that I heard 25 years before when I was part of the same ministry that Arlynne was with at the time of her death.
“The greatest purpose of your life is to live your life so that the purpose of your life outlives your life.” (Author Unknown)
It had spoken to me when I had first heard it and it was completely appropriate for describing how Arlynne had lived her life. She was not concerned with acquiring stuff. All you had to do was look in her room and you could see that. She loved people and she poured her life out on them. And she loved Jesus. So she died serving Him.
When I live my life with a view of Heaven, with a purpose to pointing others there, my life takes on a new significance. My focus will shift from striving for the bigger house, the best car, the nicest clothes and I can start seeing people in a different way. I can live more deliberately. I can choose to spend my time investing in people. I can take myself out of the rat race.
My husband does not have what most people would consider a successful career. There have been times when I have been embarassed when someone asked me what he does or where he works. But I want to change my way of thinking. He works hard and provides for our family. Because of him I can have the freedom to pursue my dreams. I can explore what God has for me to do without feeling the pressure to help provide for my kids. I would wish that for him. I know he feels an often overwhelming sense of responsibility. I know he wants to make a difference also and sometimes it feels like his job gets in the way.
What Pete and I have had to hold onto, though, is that God has a purpose for Pete’s job. A divine plan. It has a purpose. Maybe it is about changing him. Maybe it is about speaking into the lives of those around him. I don’t know. I might never know, this side of Heaven.
I read a blog by a young man I know who said that he was always pushing so hard for what comes next that he lost the joy of the present. I can be tempted to live like that also. It is so easy to fall into that trap. Maybe it is our society. Maybe it is human nature. If I live knowing that God has my future, my time here is short and I need to redeem what time I have, it changes me.
There are no guarantees in this life. We don’t know how long we have. But Heaven is a certainty. Whether my arrival there is next week, next year or 50 years from now, my final destination doesn’t change. How I have lived is what is most important. Finishing well. Having Jesus tell me that I reflected Him. These things are my life goals, regardless of the time I have.
Maybe this post contains more questions than answers. Sometimes life is like that. Questions help me re-evaluate. Do I have all the answers right now? Do I always live as though this life is temporal? Do I keep my eyes on Heaven? To be honest, I often fail. I forget that this isn’t all there is. But I have the plumb line of God’s Word to keep me centering and re-centering. Focusing on Heaven.
In the meantime, I hold on to what C. S. Lewis wrote, “I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned…was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’.” (The Great Divorce, Preface)