Thank-you to Tatyana Claytor for following up to The Tension of Passion and People with a second Lenten devotional. What a privilege to have you share your gifts with the Emerging Scholars Network. Note: Click here for 2018 Lenten devotionals and follow this link to explore ESN’s Lenten devotionals. To God be the glory! ~ Tom Grosh IV, Assoc. Dir., ESN
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. — Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV
The house I’m living in was built by a sweet couple almost forty years ago. After her husband died, the wife moved north to be with family. With no one interested in purchasing the home, it sat abandoned before falling into a dilapidated state. On more than one occasion, neighbors confided that they secretly planned to burn this house down because of how terrible it looked. It sat like this for several years until an investor purchased it for a small amount. He made huge alterations, bringing back its former beauty.
It is at this point that we enter the story. For me, it was love at first sight: stone facing, a huge yard, mature trees with branches arching grandly over the house, a fireplace (yes, in Florida), and large bedrooms. We’ve been living here for over two years now and have begun some of our own improvements that an aging house needs. It is delightful to dream and invest and make memories in this house, but I cannot escape the truth that I will never really own this home.
One day, whether we move or pass away, this home will belong to someone else for them to make memories in and to alter according to their own desires. Nevertheless, even they can make no permanent claim. Because, though a stream of owners could each own and make their imprint on this home, this house will last beyond our short, physical lives.
This impermanence is humbling—particularly as we do the hard work of life and pursuing our purpose. A quick perusal of history shows that millions of lives have been laid on the altar of progress, forgotten and unrecognized.
Solomon (or Qoheleth) wrestles with this in the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. In Eccl 3:9-13 ESV, he observes the futility of working, but then comes to an important conclusion:
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
Though he sounds quite miserable in the chapters leading up to this point, he ends with an observation of trust. He recognizes in each of us this longing to offer something that lasts, the hope of eternity in our hearts. Our work then becomes an anthem of faith—we toil and work offering our best to Him, trusting that He will take these seeds and create something beautiful. As Jesus notes, the seed cannot become a tree unless it dies, so we ourselves become the seeds for the future generations in knowledge, in truth, and in creative endeavors. And not only for future physical generations—we have hope that our sacrifices matter in the eternal reality that we can only vaguely imagine on this side. This inspires us to press on even in the face of the evidence of our impermanence. Jesus Himself models this as He became the seed that died for the benefit of the whole world. His short life impacted all of eternity in a way that was impossible to visualize ahead of time.
My husband and I know that our house is only on loan to us, but we invest in our home knowing that one day someone else will benefit from our labor. This is not a frustration, but a blessing. Our goal is to leave behind a physical and spiritual legacy that will bless those who come behind us.
- Considering your physical legacy, what do you hope to leave behind you for future generations? How will this world be a better place for you having been here?
- What spiritual legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Heavenly Father, We are so very small. We are so small that we cannot even see our own smallness. We busy ourselves to distract our minds from this truth and of the shortness of our time here. You do not let us bask in our ignorance, but instead, send us reminders, echoes of the hope of eternity in our hearts. May we, like Jesus, trust Your plans in our lives—plans to give us a real hope and real future that will have an impact far beyond what we can imagine. Let us accept this gift from Your hand. In Jesus’s name, Amen.