Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eternal

I have some math in my background, though I admit to not making excellent grades in it during college.  I know - an engineer who wasn't really great at Calculus.  Don't worry, I'm not using Calculus in my job right now.  Anyway, I do know enough about math to tell you that 100 out of infinity is 0.  There's some fancy terms we could use there and I think a graph I could draw, but for all practical purposes 100 compared to infinity is 0.  It is too tiny to even notice relative to infinity.  As infinity is, well, infinitely large, 100 looks infinitely small.  One could easily ignore 100 out of infinity.  The 100 isn't really all that important.

If I have insomnia, one single night can feel like forever.  If I'm sick, three days can feel like forever.  Let's say we live to 100.  That's 100 years old or 36,500 days or 2,190,000 minutes.  Approximately.  That seems like a very long time to us now.   But it isn't when compared to infinity, to the eternity that occurs after our lives.  In theory, nothing in those 100 years matters much next to eternity.

Insomnia doesn't matter next to eternity.  Sickness doesn't matter next to eternity.  Losing my job, my house, my wealth, or even my own life doesn't matter next to eternity.  My moments of anxiety and worry are like taking 1 out of infinity.  They're reduced to nothing.

The only reason why what we do in our time on Earth matters is due to God.  Our purpose here is to love Him and serve Him and know Him, and then we will go on to be with Him for eternity.  Only God can turn our tiny tiny moments in eternity into something.  Only God can give our work eternal value.

We all know this.  We all say we want to live for God.  I know that's what I would tell people.  And yet I wake up in the morning and go about my business as though today, by itself, without God, with only me, matters.  That my life is somehow more important than God's will for me.  I have moments where I remember God.  I do well there.  But a lot of time is spent on what I want, on my will.

How often do we think of God's will for us?  And what if His will doesn't line up with what we think we want from life?  What if it sounds risky?  What if it sounds boring?  What if it isn't normal?  What if it is too normal?  The God who created the universe has a plan.  We say we trust Him and His plan, but are we seeking it?

A few days ago, the church celebrated the Feast of St. Stephen.  St. Stephen was the first martyr.  From Wikipedia:
According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of "Roman Freedmen," he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation:
"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)
While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son:
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God - perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.
He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle

I read that and think, "Wow, that's interesting.  Interesting that someone would become the first martyr.  I guess someone had to be first.  Of course, we aren't called to do anything like that.  That would be scary.  We don't live in those times.  God would never ask me to do anything difficult like that."  Or am I really thinking, "I just don't have that kind of faith?"

Check out this entry from Conversion Diary.  I won't quote the whole thing here, but it boils down to a family who couldn't afford to adopt felt called to do so.  They adopted internationally after finding a child with significant medical needs.  The diagnosis in his home country wasn't accurate and he ended up with far more needs than they had anticipated.  A little more than a year later, the little boy died.  Can you imagine?  She wrote awhile before his death:
That moment…
When your adopted child rouses from post surgery anesthesia on a vent searching frantically with his eyes… And his meet yours… And his whole body softens and relaxes and he squeezes your finger and slowly and peacefully closes his eyes again.
Yeah, that moment…
Worth every penny, every sleepless night, every hardship.

I find a significant disconnect between what I know to be true and how I feel.  I know that being stoned to death is nothing compared to the eternal reward, and yet I have serious reservations that I could be as as bold as St Stephen.  I understand we're called to care for the least of these, but just think doing something like that family sounds downright crazy and bound to bring suffering.  Am I really saying, "God, your will be done, so long as it isn't too hard?  Too scary?  Too dangerous?  To painful?  I want to help other people so long as it doesn't cost too much?"

Jesus knows about cost.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:41-44) 
Our Lord knew what was to happen to Him.  He prayed that it might not need to come to pass, but entered willingly into His passion. He suffered, died, and was buried so He could rise again and spend eternity with us.

I pray that in 2013 God would grant me the strength and faith to be as bold as necessary, to trust in His will and not mine, and always keep in mind the eternal value of my words and deeds over my temporal concerns and anxieties.

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