Listen, listen. I had an email this weekend. Not one of yer usual run-of-the-mill reminders about something or a question about something else, or a nod of dutiful ‘keeping-in-touch’ but a real real real conversation about something that mattered! Out of the blue, unprompted. A friend sent me several pages of his journal, exploring some thoughts about a spiritual retreat, about time with God, and it was so heart warming to follow his thought process through the pages, to be there with him and to see the world through his eyes.
People don’t often do that, do they? They don’t share their world view. They don’t say “This is how I see it, come stand on the mountain top with me and look out at the world I see.” We tend to keep our dearest deepest freshest thoughts to ourselves. Well, I say ‘We’ but you know me…. I spill the beans all the time. I used to write to someone often, sharing my excitement about God, my thoughts and discoveries, but the response, for years and years, although polite and apparently interested, never showed any similar enthusiasm or openness. I was playing tennis all by myself, batting the ball against a wall, again and again… until I began to realise that the constant ‘thwack’ of that ball might have become a bit annoying, and started to imagine my friend wincing as another Luce email pinged in…. and so I stopped writing.
Maybe this urge to share and explore is why I love listening to sermons so much (good ones anyway, structured ones) and why I even like talking to groups. Sharing. That’s what this blog is, I suppose, my tennis ball thwacking against a wall, over and over again. I know that it’s a good job we don’t all have the gene that makes us want to share because if we all gabbled on like I do, the world would be a cacophony. But here I go again anyway. Why? Because that rare email I received, an insight into another person’s spiritual life, was so bloody exciting, so invigorating, so rewarding, that I want to tell you what it sparked in me. Why keep it to myself when it might just spark a bit of something-or-other in you too?
I’m going to cheat just a tiny bit and steal from my response to that lovely email. This is what I replied to my friend, thoughts sparked by his journal;
In the last few years I’ve been fascinated by the concept of eternity. It started with the simple hymn lyrics ‘When we’ve been here, ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing your praise than when we first begun.’ and when that thought hit me, it turned onto a sort of mild obsession. Whatever we talk about, whatever I read or study or pray about, I seem to circle back to eternity, to time, to patience (or the lack of it) and to understanding that God is outside time. He exists outside the limits of my day, outside your retreat, beyond any church service and that means that, when we are living with him, we too are outside these time constraints. Your retreat has been real since before mankind’s time began… this email was part of God’s plan before dinosaurs roamed the rocky wastes… the death of Jesus was there before the beginning of time….what a fantastic thought you have when you write “Death had to come. Jesus died to make that a blindingly glorious reality.”
He’s always been God, but even more than that he has always been the God who was born and died for us.
Everything in our lives is done and dusted in eternity. Laid down before time began so that time is a nonsense. There is no time but the time we create and the demands we place on our days. Patience is understanding that. Submission is acceptance.
For some years now I have prayed out of time. I reach back and pray for the people of my childhood, for the mother who died in such terrible distress, and I pray for the little girl that was me who went on to make such a mess of life and to have such a wonderfully surprising adventure. Was that unhappy little girl upheld by the prayers of a 73 year old woman now, in 2022? I think so. My God is out of time, and we are in eternity with him.
God is whole, complete, no beginning and no end.
What a fabulous God.
That’s what an unexpected email made me think. That’s what happens when one believer shares openly and honestly with another. God is glorified. And then I started to niggle away at the phrase ‘he has set eternity in our hearts’ because it kept coming to me, like an echo, and I wasn’t sure if it was a song lyric or a line from a poem or a quote… or a bible verse. And of course it is! It’s from Ecclesiastes
‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’
Wow! That blew me away. I was humbled that the thought I wrote in my email ‘God is whole, complete, no beginning and no end’ was there, in Ecclesiastes, but not just there – it was partnered with ‘eternity in our hearts’, the phrase that wouldn’t leave me. The two concepts are bound together in a bible verse and not just in my daft old brain. We are in eternity, and just as God has no beginning and no end, because we have become – by his grace – part of him, we have no beginning, no end. We are in eternity. Time is a a breath, a wisp, here and gone.
Suddenly I understood what patience is. Why it is of God. And why anxiety is never from God. Another friend quoted Tozer last week, “When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”
And now that’s set me off on another train of thought, another mini voyage of discovery. That’s how sharing works.
Isn’t that amazing? Don’t you think that’s amazing? Don’t you?
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!