Editor's note: this piece was coauthored by Hagelin's daughter, Kristin Carey.
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
This verse from James 4:14 really cuts to the chase. How is it that even though life is the longest thing we do on earth, it seems so short?
In A Severe Mercy, an incredible memoir about his own life and love lived and lost, Sheldon Vanauken reflected on the way we humans respond to time:
“Not only are we harried by time, we seem unable, despite a thousand generations, even to get used to it. We are always amazed at it—how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where we cry, has the time gone? We aren’t adapted to it, not at home in it.
Half our inventions are advertised to save time—the washing machine, the fast car, the jet flight—but for what? Never were people more harried by time: by watches, by buzzers, by time clocks, by precise schedules…
Time is our natural environment. We live in time as we live in the air we breathe. And we love the air—who has not taken deep breaths of pure, fresh country air, just for the pleasure of it? How strange that we cannot love time. “
Vanauken, who exchanged many letters on this topic with his dear friend, C.S. Lewis, came to a striking conclusion:
“It may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home.”
In times of grief, it’s common to consider the possibility of an afterlife, an eternal future, and of the implications that that reality would hold for the present. But in the normal day-to-day, it’s much easier to simply live by the clock.
Another wonderful author, Ryan Dobson, (co-host with his father Dr. James Dobson of the radio show Family Talk, on whose board Rebecca serves), recently released a book called Wanting to Believe. In it, he shares stories and wisdom that he learned from his dad. One of the subjects he touches upon is our tendency to get wrapped up in time and forget about eternity:
“Life has a way of delivering up reminders that you and I aren’t home yet. We tend to forget this truth. We sign thirty-year mortgages and purchase lifetime warranties and make ourselves comfortable in every possible way. But the truth? It’s that we’re sojourners; this world isn’t a permanent place.”
The idea that we are simply sojourners here on earth has a firm foundation in scripture. The “heroes of the faith,” described in Hebrews 11:13-16, “agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.” The passage goes on to say, “Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own…they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Those heroes of Judeo-Christian faith believed in more than just the reality of eternity. They believed in a heavenly homeland, and furthermore, that the temporal world was not their home. That belief changed the way they lived in and viewed the world so drastically that they changed face of history.
Have you ever thought about how you can live in the light of eternity?
The Hope: Hearts in Eternity
Ironically, before we can clearly focus on eternity, we need to be reminded of our mortality. The prayer of David in Psalm 39:4-6 was:
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days our numbered—
How fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
At best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
And all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
Not knowing who will spend it.”
The fact of our mortality humbles us in a remarkable way before an infinite God. In 1 Chronicles, the author, Ezra, wrote, speaking to God:
“Who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”
From such a lowly and humble standpoint, where can we go? Ryan Dobson pointed out that one of the criminals who died on the cross next to Christ’s “was humbled by Christ’s presence and asked to ‘be remembered’ when Jesus came into His kingdom—he was making a plea here for eternal life.”
In the same fashion as that criminal, when we come face to face with our mortality and God’s power, we come to a place where we have the choice to acknowledge before God both our helplessness and our longing for life—or to deny it. And as Ryan Dobson said:
“so we pray. We pray knowing that bodies are fragile and that fleeting is our time here on earth…and we pray believing that God is in the business of redemption and that even hardened criminals wind up coming to Christ.
We pray that we and all those we adore would learn to ‘number our days aright; as Psalm 90:12 says, ‘that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’
We don’t know how long we have here, do we? May we wisely approach our days.”
We don't know how long we have here, but we do have choices to make. Will you seek God, or keep your eyes fixed on the temporal? Will you call out to Jesus to ask him for the lasting life he offers, or will you deny him?
Matthew 7:8 says, "Everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."
May you ask, seek, find and knock while you still have time.