Gone, Baby, Gone
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" (2 Peter 3:10,11)
Harsh words -- but profoundly true, nonetheless. Look around you. Everything will burn up one day. True enough, if the world lasts much longer, it will turn to dirt first but eventually the End of Time Barbecue will get it. This shouldn't surprise us... but it always does! A quick glance will show most of us that things change; they get old, worn out, and tossed aside.
When I want to buy a new car, I make myself do something else first. I go and spend a week or two walking around used car lots -- not the nice kind with well lit offices and smiling salesmen, but those that are behind high wire with dogs patrolling the area topped by signs saying "We finance everybody!", "Bankruptcy? No problem!", "Trespassers will be shot on sight!"
The time spent there reminds me that every one of these cars represented a dream for someone. They thought about that car, wanted it so much that they were distracted at work or home, did the research and picked that car. They thought it would make their life happier... and maybe it did, for awhile, but not anymore. Pick up a Penny Shopper or any other local personal sales paper and see how many people want to get rid of the same stuff they couldn't wait to buy not that long ago. The items went from "this will make me happy" to "what will you take for it?" Somewhere there are still closets full of Beanie Babies, Pogs, and Troll dolls someone thought would make them a fortune or, at least, fund their retirement.
There is an echo of this cosmic fact creeping into our culture. When my son takes me into Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch (this doesn't happen often. The staff usually requests I go elsewhere) I gaze upon the shredded jeans, the shirts with frayed collars and seams, the faded hoodies -- all of which could have been worn by someone run over by a combine harvester -- and it finally dawns on me: this is just Goodwill with better lighting.
[helpful hint: Why pay $4 to have a shirt dry cleaned? Donate it to the Salvation Army. They'll clean it and you can buy it back the next day for $1. Also -- why does our local Salvation Army store have a sign up that says "no $100 bills accepted"? How often does that come up? I asked the guy behind the counter when was the last time he had someone try to pay with a hundred dollar bill. He said never... but he was pretty sure that was because they had a sign]
Change is everywhere. I asked a classroom full of college students yesterday if they had any CDs in their collection they would be embarrassed to admit to. A lot of hands went up. There are still a lot of Backstreet Boys, Debbie Gibson, and New Kids on the Block CDs out there, hiding. Let's keep them that way, shall we?
Tuesday morning I entered my office and realized that something was terribly wrong. The two guitars I keep there were gone. It didn't take long to find out it wasn't someone's idea of a joke and that no one had borrowed them without permission. They were stolen, heisted, gone, baby, gone. I thought "Heck." (for those of you who don't know, "heck" is where people go when they don't believe in "gosh.") My first suspicions were that a music critic had heard me play them and sworn to better the world by removing the WMDs (metaphorically speaking) from my office. This concept was shot down when I saw that the thieves left two ukuleles behind.
I sensed: this is a test. Do you really believe in 2 Peter 3:10,11? Can you let them go quietly with the full realization that they were just kindling for the end of the world anyway? I sat down and read Matthew 6:19-21 again where Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth, but to put them in heaven. What most of us hear is the first part -- not the second part. I've been told all my life that "you can't take it with you" but that's not true. We can't take physical things, but we can take our experiences, the relationships that changed us, our gains in knowledge, and our desire to love and serve with us from this world to the next.
You take there what you've made of your life here. Heaven seems to be a busy place -- not some eternal cosmic worship service, but the next and final stage in our service. What we learn and do here will help us up there. When I get to heaven, I will still light up at the thought of my daughter, son and wife. When I see them I will run to them in joy for, you see, I will take my love for them with me. This almost became a reality yesterday as a woman in an SUV didn't see that the light was red and barreled towards me at 60mph. When I saw her realize the coming disaster (she was close enough that I saw her eyes popping wide), I saw her tires light up as she stomped her brakes. She skidded this way and that and I had to punch the accelerator and run the light as she came spinning behind me -- not stopping until she was eighty feet past the light she'd failed to notice until it was almost fatally too late.
What would I have taken with me? Not the guitars, that's for sure. I would have taken my love for my family, for the church universal and local (bye, Rochester!), and for the Lord and His goodness. You see, some things will NOT burn up. Some things will NOT turn to dirt. Who we have become and the good works we do, our prayers and our love, THAT remains forever in the storehouse of heaven.
Take some time to review 2 Peter 3. I need to go now. I have to pick up some things I can take with me... and set in place some things that will remain after I am gone.