Friday, October 05, 2007

Scratch Lives (Living For Eternity)

Wayne Cordeiro, in his book Doing Church as a Team, writes of this notion of "scratch lives:"
To contrast the brevity of our earthly existence with that of eternity, I would take out my ballpoint pen and draw a vertical scratch on [an] extended cable. Then I would tell you that the width of that scratch mark (about 1/32 of an inch) represents the length of our life on earth compared to eternity. Not very long!

But do you know what most people do? They not only live on that scratch, but they also love that scratch.... They live scratch lives, have scratch businesses, raise scratch families with scratch hopes and scratch dreams....

....They try to elongate it, stretch it and extend it as much as possible. But even in the midst of their attempts, they know deep inside that there's got to be something more.
There is no doubt that a great many people live only for this life, squandering their time here on nothing more significant than acquiring new toys and new experiences. There can be no question that a life so lived misses the greater point of life, living only for the now rather than for eternity. But my question is this: what does it really mean to live for eternity? The old American saw tells us that "you can't take it with you." What exactly do we take with us?

For years in church I was taught (and then I taught from the pulpit) that all we take with us are the lives that we touch for Christ. A beautiful sentiment, but is it true? I think, to the extent that it reminds us that we cannot live solely for ourselves and calls us to look for opportunities to impact others that it it true But I, at least, too often forgot that one of the lives I could touch would be my own. God has great love for me, and created me that I might love Him as well.

C.S. Lewis, in the Great Divorce, argues that our lives in eternity are but an extension of our lives here on earth. We begin to develop our character in this life, a character which is grown and extended for all of eternity. The point here is that our lives as lived actually count for eternity. We do not live just to make a choice for Christ and then help others find their way to Him; rather, we live so that we might make choices and develop character that, in God's design, can only be made and developed in the context of this life. I suspect that this life is unique in its structure and opportunities; and that we will look back from eternity on this life and regret a good deal more the things we didn't do in this life than we will regret the things we did. And these will not just be "spiritual" things.

Very few people can live their lives successfully on the big stage. Of all the people currently alive, I can only count Billy Graham as having successfully navigated the treacherous waters of significant earthly power without grounding himself on the reef of great personal failure. If this is so, why does nearly every person long for great significance? I suspect it is because God has placed in us an understanding that our lives, lived out on this little stage of our scratch, will extend for all of eternity. And it is in that eternal extension that they will find great significance. So it become incumbent upon each of not, not only to engage in great spiritual activity, but to be as truly and authentically ourselves as we can manage within the context of our short lives.

For I suspect that one of the "few things" that God calls me to be faithful to is just being as authentically Don Wilcox as I could be. In the midst of the big questions of life, I think He will ask me if I attempted to live the life He gave me. I cannot believe He has no interest in that.

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