130 years ago, this gravestone of my great great grandfather was fresh and clear. Now, the information about his life can only be read with difficulty. Not long ago my wife and I traveled to Park City Utah, near the birthplace of my father, to combine a week's vacation and a family heritage tour. Thomas Jefferson Thurston pioneered a valley east of Ogden, accumulated a number of worthwhile accomplishments, and passed away in St. George UT in 1885. But outside his family and a few historians, few have heard of him (yes, he was Mormon, but most of the family left the LDS church, and I'm a Christian, not a Mormon, to avoid any misunderstanding).
But seeing his gravestone struck me with the brevity of life, and how we often struggle against it. We obsess over health and hope to extend our lives; we want to make a mark in life and hope our lives possess significance. But even grave stones decay, and some in the cemetery were unreadable--a metaphor of brevity.
For most of us, within 50 years of our death we'll likely be just a vague memory. To a few. Make it a century, and we're just a name in a family genealogy. That frustrates me. I want to make an impact now, and hope to be remembered for some time after I pass. That's a futile wish for most of us, even though we wish for some form of immortality.
I suspect God deeply imbedded that wish within our DNA: "He has planted eternity in the human heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT). We yearn for life to exceed our allotted number of years, yet the finiteness of our life on earth demolishes that wish. We hope life continues beyond our term here.
That reality plays a key role in building intimacy with God. Imagine God's level of cruelty if he put that desire in us when we have no means of attaining it. Or, perhaps that yearning reveals a desire for a deeper connection with God, one that promises our lives will continue long after our gravestones weather away.
Think of the implications for crafting our lives. This may be a cliché, but much of what we strive for cannot be taken to heaven, even though their pursuit consumes our time and treasure and thoughts. We want recognition--but memories of our lives will fade. We want physical comfort--but aging takes much of that away. We want....well, you can continue this on your own if you like to ponder futility.
Years back in college, I had the romantic lead in our production of "You Can't Take It With You," a delightful comedy. But what can we take with us? Our connection to God. Our relationships with others. Our Christ-likeness. That's about it.
So maybe we should focus on those. Ya think?
Kick Starting the Application
Do a quick evaluation of how you spend your time and treasure and thoughts. What proportion of that will end with this earthly life, and how much can you take with you? (Note, I am VERY convicted at this step). How pleased are you with this? What is one specific change you can make this week to improve your ratio? Will you do it?