From Here to Eternity

I announced  it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.

When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell.  That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug.  My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship.  He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”

It’s August.

My son’s birthday is in October.

In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me.  He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”

I’ve been thinking  as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.

After all, my son doesn’t just  think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October.  He thinks about when they’re in middle school  together and then about high school.  He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?

In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about  the Church,

The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of  heaven in a country of  death.

This image captivates me.  “A colony of  heaven.”  We can’t be heaven, of course.  We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect.  After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior!  Because we’re sinners!  We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times.  We all battle Death;  it surrounds us in this death-bound world.  The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.

Still, we have life.  We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life.  This is what ties us together as believers.  We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade.  We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.

It’s not “once upon a time.”  Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.

How can that change my perspective on loving others?

I feel less pressured, for one thing.  I remember that God has an eternal work in mind.  He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps.  When to cling?  When to let go?  He knows, and  I can trust Him.

When God was preparing to  take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here.  God wants me to go to  another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.”  He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.

But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will  not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6).  Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.

Then Elijah was gone.   God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.

I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now.  I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.

Paul writes:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).

We’re in that place now of building  and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTILUntil Christ comes.  Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus.  Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.

We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, we equip each other.  We build each other up.  We help each other become more like Jesus.  We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.

 

This is Mine. God said.

Ephesians 1

“Mine.”

My son drags his dark blue towel through the living room.  It’s not even bath night, so I’m not quite sure what inspired him to stake this claim.

But he pulls it along behind him and then holds it out so I can see his territory.

“Mine.”

And then to punctuate the point, he points to the “A” I sewed onto the towel and says, “A. Andrew’s towel.”

Now, sometimes he has this whole “mine” thing mixed up.

He says, “mine” as he snatches books out of his sisters’ hands, and their blankets, and their toys, and their toothbrushes and hairbrushes, and their jackets and hats, and their shoes.

If you listen to him some days, you’d think the whole world was his personal possession.

He’s territorial like that, more than any of my girls ever were.  He stakes claims.  He demands rights.

And he holds onto what he thinks is his with a He-Man grip and a warrior’s willingness to defend his belongings by any means necessary.

When you’re two years old, you just want what you want, I suppose.

So, I teach him.  I take stands against the tiny tyrant within him.  I defend his sisters from his raids through their stuff, and when he finds something that is his, I’m quick to agree, and then teach him to share.

Yet, while I’m working to expand his vision of the world, to remind him that others matter and we can’t just trample all over them (or bite them or hit them or pull their hair), and to be gentle, and to be giving and generous….I’m also feeling a different kind of soul-challenge myself.

I wonder if I have that same warrior within to defend what Christ says is mine.

Or do I too often let the world and let others and let Satan and let my own insecurities and fears snatch away what God has given me?

In Ephesians, I read:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3 ESV).

Paul tells us what belongs to us in Christ, because of Jesus, not because we’ve earned it or worked hard to receive it.

Louie Giglio lays it all out in his book, The Comeback:

In Ephesians, the phrase ‘in Christ’ is used 10 times in the first 14 verses. That is,

You’re blessed in Christ.  You’re redeemed in Christ.  You have forgiveness of sins in Christ.  You were chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless. You have every spiritual blessing in Christ. You were included in Christ. You’ve been made aware of the plans of God in Christ. In Christ you’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  In Christ you’ve been loved.  In Christ is where the hope comes (bold emphasis is mine).

God says all of this belongs to us when we are in Christ.

And yet I can live defeated and depleted.

I harp on my sins and mistakes, I beat myself up with what I did wrong.

That typo.  That stupid thing I said.  I should have called her and I forgot.  I lost my temper. I’m not a good enough wife.  I wasn’t gentle with my kids.  I was foolish with my time.  I haven’t prayed enough.  I’m not a good enough Christian.  I didn’t exercise today.  I haven’t been making my kids practice the piano.  I’m not a good enough mom.  I missed notes on the piano.  What I wrote isn’t as good as what she wrote.   A friend is depending on me and I’m sure I’m letting her down.  I forgot to send the card that I meant to send and even bought and wrote but just haven’t put in the mailbox.  I’m not a good enough friend.  I should spend more time in Bible study. I should spend less time on social media.  On the other hand, I’m not doing enough on social media as a writer.  I should drink more water and less everything else.   I wanted to do that project on Pinterest with my kids and I didn’t.  I’m just not good enough.

That could be just half an hour in my head.

I should.  I need to.  I didn’t. 

I failed.

God says in Christ I’m forgiven.

He says in Christ I’m loved.

Ephesians says in Christ, I’m chosen and made holy, blameless.

In Christ, I can live with hope instead of hopelessness.

In Christ, I am redeemed.  In Christ, I am blessed.

So I need to start claiming what’s mine and living in what’s mine and defending what’s mine instead of living without.

“This is Mine.  Heather’s.”

God says this belongs to me.