Thank you for indulging me as I have attempted to catch you up on the last seven months. It was very therapeutic for me to go back through photos and see what the last seven months have meant in the life of our family. The time since June has been so hard in some ways and so amazing in other ways. Stuggles are never enjoyable in the process, but there is such beauty in looking behind and seeing the fruit that trials have brought. God has taught me so much about my own weakness and His strength, about my pride and His love, about my dreams and His plans, about my hurts and His healing, about my motivations and His keen eye, and about my sin and His forgiveness. My time of sickness led to a time of quietness and that quietness was exactly what I needed in order to hear God speak.
At church on Sunday the guest speaker spun a familiar idea into new words. I love it when someone can take an idea or phrase and speak new life into it. Scripture is living and active and yet at times, I let the words run right off of me instead of through me. When the imagery is changed, however, it forces me to stop. In stopping, the words start to penetrate my heart. There is beauty and freshness in looking at things in a new light.
The speaker was preaching on what he called "Practical Atheism in the life of a Christian." His point was that many believers claim a renewed life and yet the evidence of their actions and choices shows that they are living like an atheist. An atheist doesn't believe in God and therefore God's Word doesn't affect his or her life in any way. The speaker had many scriptural examples of the signs that point to this lifestyle as well as the results that such living brings. Many of them were cause for deep self-examination, but one stood out to me more than the others.
One of the results, he said, of practical atheism in the life of the Christian is that when the time comes to enter heaven, the life's work of the practical atheist will be left at the doorstep, though he/she will enter heaven. The practical atheist spends her time doing things that are completely and totally earth-centered: there is no eternal value in them. While the idea of "focusing on things above" (Colossians 3:2) is far from new to me and books such as Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity have been life-changing for me, this particular image in my mind — of me standing at the gates of heaven having to leave behind everything I have put my time, heart, and energy into — struck me in a profound way. I imagined my own sadness as well as the countless before and after me who hung their heads before the Almighty, realizing that all of the things they had poured themselves into during their stay on earth were worthless beyond the gates of eternity.
Again, this isn't completely new for me. I long ago gave up any notion that houses, cars, bank accounts, clothing, and personal status are worthy of any great attention. However, something about the way the words were spoken and the imagery it conjured up in my mind sparked something deep within my soul. They have given me a renewed determination to spend my days and hours on things that have eternal value and not to waste those same days and hours on things that will end up in a huge pile of "Sorry, that can't come in with you" junk. I get frustrated at airports when a bottle of water or shampoo gets confiscated at security. I think, "What a waste!" Given the intensity of emotions I feel as I stand barefooted at a security checkpoint, I can only imagine the weight of sorrow that would be on me if everything I spent my earthly years on was denied access into eternity with me!
Each of us have a choice to make every day. How will spend our moments? Our moments turn into hours and our hours into days and our days into years. We must ask ourselves,
"Where is my time going?" "What is getting the bulk of my attention?" "Where does my money go?" "What value will this have tomorrow, next week, next month, or in ten years?"
And just as important,
"Is there something else that I could be spending my time/money/energy/emotions on that will have more eternal significance?"
This isn't to say that I don't think God wants us to enjoy life. On the contrary, I believe that the abundant life that Christ offers will only be realized when we allow Him to change our hearts (and as a result, our priorities and desires). I think someone can run for the glory of God. I think someone can bake and bless others eternally. I am convinced that someone can create art that points to the amazing Creator. We can write as a means of using words to build up and encourage others. But, I also think that we can run for vain and arrogant reasons. We can bake with the intention of impressing others. We can create art with a twisted lust for the praise of man. We can write words in the hopes of others recognizing our wit, intelligence, or creativity. It isn't necessarily the activities of our day that are in question, but rather, the true motive behind them. We may fool others into believing our motives are pure, but Scripture tells us over and over again that God tests our hearts and He is privilege to our deepest and most sincere desires and motives.
So, right now, I am mulling all of this over. I am looking at the moments and choices of my life and days and letting God shine light on my heart motives. More than anything, I want to arrive at the gates of heaven and rather than be told to throw my life's work into a pile that has to be left behind, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Your work has preceded you. Go on in and see the eternal result of your time and choices. It's beautiful."
So with each meal I prepare for my family, each load of laundry I wash and fold, each photo I take, each word I type, and with each snuggle I give, I am praying that God would use my choices and my days as part of His eternal plan. If I bake, let it be to bless others. If I rest, let it be so that I can have the energy to serve. If I read, let it be to gain wisdom. If I eat, let it be to nourish and strengthen my body. If I create, let it be to shine forth God's beauty and creativity. If I discipline my children, let it be to lead them closer to the Lord. If I celebrate, let it be for God's goodness and faithfulness through the years. And if I write, let it be to edify others. I want my life's work to matter.