When we think about the word “eternity” doesn’t our mind immediately think, “whoa, that’s a long time”? Which really isn’t accurate whatsoever. The salient point to be made here is, eternity isn’t so much a mark of time, but a place without time which exists. A place where being is, and a conception of time no longer keeps a place of importance within what we do or how we choose to fill our time. Take for instance, what have we done today to mark time? I personally have been awakened by my alarm, and then I had my “morning coffee” and I’ve just eaten my “first breakfast”. During my day I will have more to eat, which will mark time in the day, I have a few appointments, and then my day will end with exhaustion (hopefully) and I will mark another point in time while I sleep. This is just one example of how time dictates a pattern in our lives which imprints its decree of compliance on everything we do. As humans, we rely on this time to perceive our existence, otherwise we might go mad with just not knowing. Time is so important to us we sell high priced time pieces to mark our day, some of the greatest ancient inventions (Archimedes), were done as a measure of time, and we determine high points in human existence (e.g. Birth/Death of Christ) by a calendar. So, if I wasn’t clear so far, time is a big deal for us, we need it, we search for it, and we can’t live without it.
So, where does the question of eternity and time fit in with our pursuance of faith, and where does eternity fit in with our lives in general? In some of my previous writings I referred to the paradigm shift of endings and beginnings, and to be sure, eternity is the beginning. We’ve entered life, fashioned lovingly by God, and we’ve been put to the task of living. We are thinking, breathing, beautiful creatures which have captured the heart of God, and it is our choice in life to reciprocate this love (freely given) and pour it upon our fellow man but also look in agape towards the light of God. This is seen in the gift of Jesus, the gift of forgiveness, and the gift of love outpoured again and again by God in his grace towards us. When we read the Bible, we are given a tremendous gift of forward sight as it relates to eternity and this life as we can know it as it pertains to Heaven. God is heaven to be sure, existing in Heaven, means existing within the presence of God.
I’m not going to presume to explain an existence without time or of a place I’ve never been, all I can do is speak of the teachings I’ve received and of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life, which I believe are a semblance of what eternity must be like. I always tell people, I’m not a fan of those movies which seemingly try to represent heaven, the first which comes to mind is the movie (What Dreams May Come), and to be clear, the acting was very well done in the movie. Though, what I feel we miss is the ineptness with which a movie tries to describe the indescribable. We as humans can’t possibly describe heaven, we are just too limited by our brains and our creative thought potential to realize a place of intense beauty and the true presence of love. Kreeft points out, we are no longer seeking faith or hope when we enter the gates of Heaven, but instead we are surrounded by pure love, pure goodness and this must be impossible to describe, as none of us have ever experienced something so intense in our lives. Those of us who have, are probably saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, was believed to have received a vision of Heaven, and when asked if he wanted to continue the Summa Theologica he declined and stated, “I cannot”, when asked why not, he replied “because everything that I have written seems to me chaffy”. Just to be clear, Aquinas’s Summa is one of the greatest works of literature ever written, I would also mention, the very foundational understanding of Christian Theology is attributed to Aquinas and his explanations and refutations of everything pertaining to the Trinity. Even as this is acknowledged, his vision of what we can only presume as the presence of God turns everything gray by our standard of perception, and this even includes time as it exists for us.
When Moses asked for God’s name, at the burning bush, a response like no other was given, “I Am Who Am”. A name which indicated an eternal existence, Scott Hahn points out in his discussion on the Gospel of John, an eternal existence is one which has always been no beginning and no ending, and everlasting life is an existence with a birth yet with no ending (i.e. Humans pursue everlasting life with the eternal God.). We accept this, as Christians, when we eat the body and blood, and through our belief of Jesus the promise is fully realized. Though to be in the presence of God as we are given many examples in life, it is to touch eternity and glimpse its stark contrast to our time. These transcendent events, works of art, or our personal experiences with out fellow human beings is this glimpse. If we can’t afford to spend any of our time in the presence of God doing the good works needed for our soul, how then can we presume to spend eternity doing this very thing?
As a man, I find my lack of emotion for some things to be bothersome, but I am just not moved by what my wife is moved by and combined with either my anger on some issues or my willful ability to push those things I don’t like in my life out, I create walls seemingly impervious to your standard list of acceptable responses. Walls which prevent love from entering my thoughts and walls which make it nearly impossible sometimes to feel the sympathy or empathize at least with the events occurring around me. For instance, my son was sick from school and when he approached my wife and I, I castigated his excuse for feeling unwell. I was dissatisfied with his lack of explanation and seeing as I wasn’t to be made a fool of (I was more worried about me than I was him), I was going to stand my ground. I was immediately imbittered by his lack of explanation and unmoved by his condition; in my anger, I upset my wife, and removed myself from an ability to look at his pain with my own love. My wife, upset by my words and actions stated, “there is no love in your actions towards our son”. This hurt. Though, by my estimation, it probably didn’t hurt as much as my actions towards him, both my son and my God. This was cathartic for me, my wife was truthful with me, even if I didn’t like it because I did feel pain when she stated my actions for the record, I had to accept the truth. Eternity is the truth, it is the expression of love which God gives us by every means possible, and in this expression, we can look within ourselves and determine the answer, or we can be like I was with my son. We can choose to allow anger to control our destinies, or we can accept our past behaviors and make amends for what we’ve done wrong, and then choose to make every effort to curtail our boorish attitudes and behaviors as events happen to us and with us.
Men, I think we have a tough road, we are increasingly looked upon as being out of touch with the times if we exhibit a roughness or stoic attitude about events which occur around us. We are put in a place of diminishment as cultural subjective attitudes take precedent over objective truth. Feelings have become a vital weapon in the arsenal of victim-hood, and men who blubber and cry in entertainment and public forums has become the normal paradigm now. Personally, I don’t want to see men cry about tragedies, I want to see them stand up and lead the way to solutions. Now, I’m not going to be ridiculous about my perceptions of men, but nothing good ever came from an emotive action, including legislation of laws, and changes in truth. The truth is, bad stuff happens to good people, but time requires we continue to move forward, and this isn’t achieved when we attempt to stop moving and wallow in our misery. I challenge anyone to read any five books on the westward expansion of the United States and you will see stories of misery whereby people were expected to pick back up and continue forward with their lives. They did not have the luxury or time as it were, much like we do today, to stand and cry about what awful events transpired in their lives. As this just so happens to be the case, all misery is terrible, and all misery is creating a void in our hearts longing for what once was, but as pain hurts, we learn from the experience of pain. Our desire to be with our eternal God requires a purification of soul, and within our efforts of purification we will endure all manners of pain. Our culture is attempting to create its own eternal paradigm where we are see ourselves as victims and where the culture pushes out those people who don’t agree or refuse to accept this self-aggrandizing behavior. They are creating their own personal hell, and I don’t want to be there running in the never-ending circle which is misery. I choose to believe in God, the sources of joy in our lives. Our joy is the recognition, within our reality, no matter what happens, God exists and is there to comfort us, if we would only allow this love in. Allowing this love to enter our lives is the beginnings of lights of eternity as it illuminates the darkest places of our hearts. In every chance possible we should be looking for our places in the eternal light of God.
Ok, where am I going with all of this? Perception. Perception is your key to understanding all, your pathway to understanding. How can you ever hope to perceive what your wife or kids are doing if you don’t understand what they are doing? How can you ever know the events in life which happen are bad, but altogether within the scope of the love God pours out, as matter of understanding and perception of love. Your acceptance of an eternity which creates, The Paradigm, acknowledges the very real and very hard asked question, “Where do you think you go when you die?”. This was the game stopper for me, this was the question above all other questions, which when I stepped up and finally answered, changed my perception of everything. In the back of my mind I always knew the answer, but was too afraid to confront it, I choose to be willfully ignorant of the ways of the world and my culpability regarding those ways. Much like Constantine’s Confessions, I was more apt to take the easy path of sin rather than the difficult path of righteousness. My answer to the question was this, God is very real, and eternity does exist, God loves me, and so desperately wants me to love him back, but he won’t make me as this is not love, but a modern-day subjective aberration which dictates God should answer to us. This is unequivocally wrong, we answer to our creator in all things, and we should refrain from hubris, arrogance, and the priggish pursuit of our own personal rightness. God’s will be God’s will, it should be followed, and in a pursuit of anything else is our attempt to justify sinful behavior.
Fathers and husbands out there, this is the teaching we must pursue with out families, we are leading them down the path, especially our kids, as much as they may act like grown ups sometimes, they are still innocence personified and trust us beyond measure. They still look to us, with an enthusiastic attitude of amazement, they want to put us on this pedestal and even expect us to never make mistakes. There is some pressure, if we truly care about the eternal decisions we make, but in the end, eternity is our choice. Everything we do is moving in the pathway of eternity, and we decide if it’s an eternity of love and fulfillment, or an eternity of misery and damnation. This may seem a bleak representation of what we have before us, but it really is this simple. We get to choose, and what I’ve noticed is when we choose the light of God, our whole perspective changes with death, sickness, kindness, feelings, and most importantly love. So, when we are teaching our families through our actions or words, we need to keep eternity in mind, we need to be completely aware of those events in life which are determined to define us, but you need no defining other than looking to God. God is your definition, Jesus is your purpose, and the Holy Spirit is your guide to a realization of an eternal light which will never again allow darkness to enter your heart.
As we are coming into Good Friday, we are brought face-to-face with the reality of eternity, through the resurrection of Christ, we see a very real perspective confronting us. A perspective of truth. How does a man, beaten, scourged, and crucified manage to walk around after his death? Well, he was the divine God, first, but more importantly we he was ascending to eternity as a manner to light our ways. Subsequently the disciples followed his teachings and became martyrs themselves. They all died to be reborn into an eternal life. When we see the horrible events, which are occurring in our world today, we as a matter of media extension, focus on the death and destruction as a placement of emotion and we seek to put the guilty parties to justice. What we don’t seem to focus on, as a society at large, is the very real need and understanding, God is all powerful, and nothing happens to us without the express love and attention by God. When we die, we go to God. Those of our families or friends who have died, are by my estimation, in a much better place than myself, and I long for the day when I will go to see my creator. I am not worried about my journey, nor am I worried about my family, I seek everyday to show them the path as I see it, and I know God loves them. They will have to make their own decisions, in life, and I pray my actions and words will help guide them in the path they need to go as time continues to march toward the sea of eternity within their lives.
Where did we end up in the discussion of eternity? We’ve ended up knowing a few truths, you are your own worst enemy and in a matter of accepting pain as a matter of growth, you have two paths. You can choose right or wrong, both are eternal, but one is with God, and one is without the loving presence of God. To place this in a general perspective, we are always in the existence of God on Earth seeing as God is the creator of all, God is the very nature of being itself, but as Heaven is concerned we will see and know God more fully. Being in an existence without the creator is an awful thought, and much like we can’t incapsulate the perception of Heaven, the same is also true with Hell, though Dante’s Inferno does a pretty good job describing it.
I hope and pray, eternity is a very real thought for you and your family. I hope it is on the forefront of your mind daily, it is where we meet God, and I’m very excited about this! Answer those fundamental questions and create a foundation of understanding which will keep your gaze in a form of agape always and keep your focus on the important work of God. You are loved, and this is evident in your life, and the potential to do wonderful things with your life. I pray your family is keeping you grounded in your faith, and as a man you stand in front to guide their way. A family doesn’t need a crying blubbering man to guide their path, they need someone who is strong and willing to continue moving forward as a matter of faith in God and faith in eternity. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!