“For inquire now of bygone generations, and consider what their ancestors have found; for we are but of yesterday, and we know nothing, for our days on earth are but a shadow.” ~Job 8:8-9 (NRSV).
That is quite a calamitous subset of Job, above, right there—in a book of calamitous subsets.
We live as if we’ll never die, and despite knowledge that death will take us suddenly or eventually, we, by our flesh-led nature, still cannot see beyond the bodily life.
Though the Lord has set eternity in our hearts—an inescapable urge to ponder the meaning of life and death, and life before and beyond life—the Almighty has also set worldly life just as deep in our hearts; even if by fashion of attachment to family, the pursuits, the longings of thought for that which grips us in the here-and-now.
The Metaphor of Tidal Movement
Think of your life in this way: one complete tidal movement—the extent and legacy of your worldly life.
Those two verses of Job above humble us enough to picture eternity, in the context of our individual lives, as a tide. Before we were conceived the tide was, for us, well out and low—impossible to see.
Then, as the actors creating us—our mothers and fathers—conceived us, acting like the moon and sun does with the sea tides, our eternal tidal mark rose at the bequest of life. We came into the world and grew through adolescence to adulthood and that tidal mark, consequently, rose more and more in flood-tide mode.
The meld of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity—the span of those years—is our high tide mark.
Too soon, it seems, the tide regresses. No sooner is their cognisance of flood-tide, and the burgeoning hope of life, then ebb-tide takes over. We slip into states of physical regression—the ageing process accelerates—and, ultimately, the ebbing tide converts the sharp boldness of our early thinking into the grace of wisdom before those faculties, too, dissipate.
When our time is done the vision of our tide is no more—into eternity, again, we slip.
Setting Our Purpose From the Mode of Eternity
The movement of the tide is beautiful in its grace—but it’s temporary, as we’re personally concerned.
One hundred years from now we will be as those who lived one hundred years beforehand—gone several decades. Our real home awaits each of us.
This is a difficult thing to get our minds around; even for established and faith-strong Christians. Not much of what we worry about now will matter in eternity, but what will matter is our approach to life, and our approach to Jesus—the Saviour of the world.
We will say, then: Did we live for truth?
Knowing God is seeing life from an eternal perspective, appreciating that our lives are merely the length of one tidal movement. They are gone before we understand it. Better by far to know God by viewing life via the Lord’s unchanging ways; whether in the body, here, or away, at home.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.