Do you ever find yourself living life as if the day’s humdrum routine is all there is? I don’t know about you, but all too often, I find myself caught up in the spinning vortex of the daily grind. Before long, I’m doing life as if it will carry on like this in perpetuity. As if this—endless to do lists, grocery lists, meal plans, laundry, countless errands, etc.—is all there is.
But then something happens, something that shakes me from my stupor and reminds me of the temporary and volatile nature of our entire existence.
This month, we had just such a reminder: Aaron’s sweet grandmother, “Gran Gran Carr” as we knew her, passed out of this world and into the arms of Jesus. From her cozy, beloved home, she flew to her eternal home—and what a homecoming it must have been!
Upon Aaron’s return from the funeral back South, we laughed and shed tears as we shared stories and memories of this feisty, hard-loving lady. The unmistakably fiery blood of a redhead coursed through her veins, fueling a long and full life. More than anything, the love she carried for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren stands apart. We see the evidence everyday in the lovely quilts she handmade for us, the crafts she created for our babies (and even our dogs before we had kids!), and the cards she faithfully sent every birthday—even mine, a granddaughter-in-law!
We will treasure those keepsakes always.
Consumed by the Temporary
It’s unfortunate that something so drastic is required to shake us back to the present—but more often than not, that’s how it goes. We fiddle about the tasks of our daily lives, cloaked in a false sense of control, until some event reveals otherwise.
And we have the unattractive tendency to lose perspective in the chaos and stress of the holidays, perhaps more so than in any other season of the year. There’s nothing wrong with lights and Christmas trees and cookie swaps, but if we’re not careful, we’ll look up and be so consumed by glitter, glue guns, and elves that we’ve completely missed the point of giving thanks at Thanksgiving and celebrating our Savior during Advent.
Even more unfortunate is the tendency to carry this obsession with the superficial into the other months of the year. Before we can turn around, three more seasons have whirled past, and Costco is stocking Christmas trees and poinsettias in October again … and once more, we are forced to ask ourselves some hard questions:
Did I live life well this year?
Did I spend my days with eternity in mind?
Did I love enough, give enough, grow enough … or did I fill my fleeting time with all things temporary and superficial?
These questions are tough and require of us an honest, inward inventory … but it’s an inventory worth taking.
Not Our Home
In the last days of Gran Gran Carr’s life, she longed to go home, to leave the cold, sterile hospital and enjoy her final days in the comfort and familiarity of her own surroundings. I’d venture every single one of us understands this longing, for the concept of home is planted deep in our hearts.
As her last moments on earth drew near, Gran Gran expressed a desire to go “home home” as we in the faith call it—home to our final, eternal home. She was ready, excited to embrace the glorious reality of all God had prepared for her. In those moments, she probably held a greater understanding of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 than any of us:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).
This beautiful scripture is the linchpin of a life well lived. If we’re to follow God’s greatest commandments—loving God and loving others—we must carry within our souls a firm grasp on the fleeting, temporary nature of life on earth.
The vast majority of things with which we become consumed and distracted—life’s worries, riches and pleasures as Jesus noted in Luke 8:14—threaten to choke out that which is genuinely important. Our Pinterest boards, perfectly crafted Instagram posts, and overly busy schedules are mere blips in the grand scheme. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6 NIV).
God With Us
In this season of Advent, we are privileged to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Jesus’ arrival was His way of bringing eternity into our earthly hearts and lives. His coming made it possible for us to live beyond the ephemeral. He came to set us free from this vortex that threatens to consume the days of our lives, leaving us exhausted and with very little to show for our effort.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).
Hundreds of year after Isaiah penned these beautiful words, we see their fulfillment in the birth of Christ:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 NIV).
This year in particular, I’ve never been so thankful for the name Immanuel, God with us. We sing it and speak it with such familiarity that I’m afraid it has lost its sense of awe … but when we stop and think about what that really means—the reality that we have God with us, here on earth, here in our hearts, at all times—what a game changer!
It’s the reason Jesus came. He knew how desperately our frail, human hearts needed Him. In our current culture, we often hear talk of the “war” on Christmas—and it certainly seems that culture continues its efforts to remove all traces of Jesus from the festivities. But the sometimes flippantly stated battle cry of “Jesus is the reason for the season” is fundamentally true. Apart from Christ, there is no celebration, no redemption, no star of wonder. Christmas is ontologically, inextricably about Jesus.
And Jesus came that we might live life and live it to the fullest (see John 10:10)—instead of spinning our wheels on some human equivalent of the hamster wheel.
So in this season—and in every season of our lives—may we live life well. May we keep Christ not only in Christmas, but also in our souls throughout the year. And may we conduct our days on earth with eternity firmly rooted in our hearts. Though our feet be planted on this dusty ground for a time, may our minds be ever reaching out and up towards Him.
Immanuel. God with you, and God with me.
In this beautiful season of Advent, let us be mindful of the most important thing. Yes, let us decorate our homes and place that darned elf wherever we’d like—but let us also remember the ultimately temporary nature of life and focus on the arrival of Jesus, who gave meaning, true meaning, to it all.
And when our days on earth come to a close, may we, like Gran Gran Carr, leave the legacy of a life well lived.
Gran Gran Carr with Hemingway & Isaiah (April 2015)