The Arrival Gate

Airports are great venues for people-watching. Over there are the company folks, huddled around their leader, soberly nodding at her wisdom or overly laughing at his humor. Then this other group must be a sports team—they’re all wearing the same thing, though gathered in cliques. (Once, in the Kansas City airport, I fast-walked my way through a big group of big “kids,” only to discover later it was the Green Bay Packers.) Disney families are easy to spot, whether excitedly going or exhaustedly returning. What moves me every time, though, are the heartwarming hellos and the heartbreaking goodbyes—expressions of gladness or sadness of people coming or going. Sometimes I wonder how many have experienced both in the same trip—a tearful parting from the parents on the way to a joyful reunion with the fiancé, for instance. Life is full of emotional departures and arrivals, right up to the end—and through it, actually.

We know the goodbyes of death all too well, for we bid our final farewells from the departure gate. But what welcome greets our loved ones upon arrival, and what awaits us at our appointed time, as well? Truthfully, there is much we don’t know, but the Bible tells us what we need to know—those united with Christ through faith in Him arrive into His presence. The apostle Paul longed to “depart and be with Christ.”1 Also, according to Jesus, when God said, “I am the God of Abraham … Isaac and … Jacob,”2 long after they were gone, He declared these ancients still to be living and Himself still to be their God. At Jesus’ transfiguration, who were with Him but Moses and Elijah, both having lived and died centuries beforehand?3 And when would the man crucified next to Jesus be with Him in Paradise? “Today.”4

Sometimes when losing those we love or speculating about our own departure and arrival, we try to fill in the blanks with our limited imaginations, which are inescapably rooted in this world—speculation about celestial fishing holes, golf courses and bingo halls, for instance. In truth, what we will encounter is far higher and greater than anything our thoughts can dream up or our hearts contain. Assured Paul, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him.”5 This is the God who escorts us to departure and awaits us at arrival. He is that good; we rest in Him.

Father, you are forever faithful. You are with us in our comings and our goings. Grace us to rest in you so completely for our future that we live our todays in joy, freedom, purpose and love. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Philippians 1:23
2 Matthew 22:32
3 Matthew 17:1-8
4 Luke 23:43
5 1 Corinthians 2:9

Take This to Heart

This has been a year of mourning for me, having lost my step-father in February, a sister-in-law in August, and a friend who died tragically last week. Shock and grief have been the houseguests who stayed too long; social distancing is lost on them. Yet God is glorified in all things, and His sovereignty is not shaken in seemingly hopeless times, even in death. He is our sure and certain hope, so we do well to experience these moments in honest contemplation and complete openness before Him. Wrote Solomon, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”1 These are healthy words; this is timeless wisdom.

Though I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for many years now, I have struggled to understand the natural order of this life wherein we grow and learn that we may thrive—and raise another generation to do the same—only to find that, by the time we truly start to figure things out, we’ve reached its end and it is time for us to go. Why do we have so little time to savor the wisdom it took us so long to gain? It seems like such mockery, in a way. But as I sat beside my step-father in what would be his final hours, Paul’s teaching on life, death and resurrection came to mind. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies,” he said, “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed…”2 The apostle went on to conclude, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”3 Though we would miss my step-father in the years to come, this was his appointed time of stepping away from the old and into the new. Perhaps Solomon had this in mind as he mused, “the day of death better than the day of birth.”4

Then for us who are born into new life in Christ, our eventual maturity into wisdom is not mockery at all, but rather preparation and assurance for a dying seed about to burst forth into its eternal destiny of unimaginable splendor. For our God is good, even in death. We, the living, can take this to heart.

Father, you have made us for yourself, and you desire us to be with you and in you through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thank you. Fill us, that we would glorify you here as we await your glory in the unending age to come. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Ecclesiastes 7:2
2 1 Corinthians 15:36, 37
3 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
4 Ecclesiastes 7:1

Distractions

“You were my focuser,” my mother reflected as we sat at the kitchen table. She spoke in past tense perhaps as one recalling earlier days when her brood lived under one roof, or maybe with only weeks left to live, she was viewing life retrospectively as one who had reached its end. Whether a focuser or not had never occurred to me, but I accepted the perspective only a mother could know, albeit with a twist of irony, for I am also fairly adept at becoming distracted. It is a broadly shared trait; consider Martha, for instance. Hosting Jesus in her home, she was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made,”1 while her sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”2 Her hot-button duly pushed, the miffed Martha elevated her complaint to her Messiah-guest. “Martha, Martha,” Jesus gently replied, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”3 Then came the last thing a tattling sibling might want to hear: “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”4

We would intellectually agree it is better to sit before Jesus and listen to Him than to consume ourselves entirely with the self-imposing dictates of the day. In actuality, though, we naturally succumb to the opposite, filling our time with lesser activities, many of which are unimportant and ultimately unsatisfying. We all have them, and it helps to name them, so what keeps you from talking and listening to Him who “has the words of eternal life”?5 Are we, like David, “surely distracted, because of the voice of the enemy”—those who threaten us in some way?6 Are we diverted by “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things”?7 Do we consume today, worrying about tomorrow—what will eat, drink or wear?8 Or perhaps for you it is a matter of how you schedule, filling the calendar first with the temporal and leaving little room for the eternal.

To the Philippian believers, Paul wrote, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”9 Isn’t this our focal point, where we are headed? Isn’t this what matters, and doesn’t it prioritize our day? It was for the apostle a clear future vision that charted his daily life: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”10 There is no higher purpose in life than to draw near to God—speaking in prayer and listening through His Word—and to live this life undistracted and aligned with His Kingdom purposes. It starts anew each day.

Father, strengthen me in your Spirit to resist distractions, and draw me close to you. Grace me, then, to rest in you as I discern and pursue the things I must do today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

1 Luke 10:40
2 Luke 10:39
3 Luke 10:41, 42
4 Luke 10:42
5 John 6:69
6 Psalm 55:2 NASB
7 Mark 4:19
8 Matthew 6:25
9 Philippians 3:20
10 Philippians 3:13, 14