Strange title, for sure. But hear me out.
My own life experience leads me to believe that while eternity has been placed in our hearts, the here-and-now seems to crowd out that deep God-given gift. The eternity in our hearts has been pushed to the background. Eternity is simply not top-of-mind.
An illusion is created by our experiences and our day-to-day sight. In any given moment, this life seems to be permanent.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
I was thinking about this deceptive illusion late in my grief journey. I was traveling in Texas for a conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had not been back to Fort Worth in a while, and it was my first visit after Kim’s death. For a little history, Kim and I uprooted our family in 1992 and moved to Fort Worth, Texas for training before going to Africa. We lived in campus housing. So while I was visiting on campus, I decided to drive over to campus housing and found what was our home for seven months on Ferguson Court. A surge of renewed pain coursed through my body. I had this thought cross my mind. This place is still here; but Kim is not here.
While visiting Texas, I went for lunch one day to a favorite restaurant, Cousin’s BBQ. It was still there and still very, very good. Nostalgia poured over me since Kim and I visited this restaurant several times while living there. The restaurant, too, is still here; but she is not here.
On another occasion months before, I drove by her high school, South Cobb High School, near Smyrna, Georgia. Within months of her death, I visited Bar Harbor, Maine where we honeymooned. I’ve visited place after place where Kim and I had been together in the past. Those places are still here; but she is not here.
Those places seem unchanged. To be fair, they are not unchanged, but they seem to be unchanged. Change slowly takes place and hypnotizes you to not see the change. So, those places are still here; but she is not still here.
And it occurred to me: There’s an illusion of permanence represented by places that endure especially when a loved one has passed away and is no longer here. These places stand as monuments and reminders that the one who walked these places with you is forever gone.
These and other geographical places have tempted me to ignore the eternity in my own heart. No, not fully; however, it is a subtle lure. While eternity is placed in my heart, I recognized I have a daily battle to rehearse it and keep it top-of-mind. Unchanging places coax me into thinking that this life is permanent.
“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
What we see is temporal. Transient.
What we do not see is eternal. Forever.
If you do not understand this faith lesson, you will be forever distracted by the here-and-now. What we see—even these seemingly permanent places—is temporal. Embrace the eternity in your heart, and learn its lessons.
Walking through grief has reminded me that I need to take captive my thoughts. I must embrace the gift of God’s grace whereby he places eternity in our hearts. I must demolish arguments, every pretense of knowledge, and take distracted thinking captive.
The temporal may seem perpetual. What you see and touch now may seem enduring. Places may seem permanent.
Yet, it’s only a deceptive illusion. Therefore, beware of the deceptive illusion of temporal permanence.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
Note: As it turns out, the trip to Fort Worth, Texas (that inspired this entry) was within weeks of my decision to seek a relationship with Amanda who is now my wife.