“As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’” –Mark 13:1-2
All through the Gospels, Jesus reminds us repeatedly that life is fleeting, transitory, and very, very temporary. Even the most grandiose edifices will eventually crumble and their memory will last only as long as the medium with which it is documented. All things eventually fade into oblivion…even those things we love the most.
Over the last few months, that very stark reality has been emphasized in my personal life and has motivated me to take note of it in this week’s column. The details are not particularly important, but the point has been driven home. Whether it is the death of a friend, the sudden loss of employment, the betrayal of a loved one, or the loss of faith in something that was previously trustworthy, we grieve over losses and miss those who gave us comfort and stability before they were called away.
I have seen many changes in recent years that I find unnerving as well. People have always coveted malice and unreasonable bias. But as of late, it has become vogue to abandon all attempts at diplomacy or moderation for the sake of civility. People seem intent on shoving their personal beliefs and agendas down everyone else’s throats with a “consequences be damned” attitude. Conflict and permanent estrangement seem to have become commonplace and of little concern to anyone. The general call to arms has been something along the lines of, “It’s my way, so get the hell out of it!” I find myself grieving for the relative comfort found in years past when people generally piloted themselves within the accepted boundaries of navigational social beacons. Venturing outside has not resulted in freedom. t has shackled us to the slavery of pride and selfishness.
All of this bolsters nostalgia and a sentimentality that is not enjoyable, because it is hot-dipped in regret. Regret is an emotion that goes down with a revoltingly acidic flavor, leaving a bitter long-lasting aftertaste…something hard to get out of our mouths. That’s why I have strived to avoid regrets…even to the point of tolerating abuses much longer than I should have. But the effort seemed worth the discomfort until it was clear that it was perpetually futile. Under those circumstances, you’re foolish not to let it go…unless you’re masochistic. That’s a dysfunction I can do without!
Hope is indeed a virtue and despondency grows old to those with any self-respect. So we turn and look for solace among those things that are left, no matter how transitory they may ultimately be. At least we can find some sanity and comfort while we take breath in this world. Beyond that, we still seek that which has staying power, even after death.
A good friend of mine who recently died once told me he engaged his son in a conversation about this very topic. He was in a state of despair at the time and was disgusted with where his life was headed. He said he angrily turned to his boy and asked, “Is there anything trustworthy anymore?” The response was, “Yeah, Dad. The love of Jesus Christ.” Now you have to understand that while my friend lived a largely virtuous life, he was not particularly “religious.” But that brief exchange triggered a line of thought that resulted in a profound, legitimate conversion that brought him much closer to God before his death. Timing can be a wonder in retrospect.
“Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind…” –Dust in the Wind, Kansas, 1978
Or, if you prefer…
“The whole world is drunk and we’re just the cocktail of the moment. Someday soon, the world will wake up, down two aspirin with a glass of tomato juice, and wonder what the hell all the fuss was about.” -Dean Martin
Yeah, but it can be an “E”-ticket ride while it lasts and, for those who are willing to accept it or entertain the notion, there’s something better on down the road. Not sure about you, but it’s enough to get me to dust off, shoulder my pack, and get moving in that direction.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
-2 Corinthians 4:17
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.