All of it will go away…now what???
What kind of people ought you to be knowing that this whole world and everything in it will one day be dissolved and remade?
I believe we respond to this question usually in one of two ways. The first reaction, when we are confronted with the reality that our lives, our material goods, our possessions, our relationships and our accomplishments, all of it is completely temporary, never lasting forever, like sand slipping through our fingers; is despair. Some have gone so far as complete asceticism, shunning all worldly goods and even relationships because they all will ultimately end up bringing you suffering and pain because they are so temporary and when they leave it hurts, bad. Sometimes we will also adopt a who cares kind of attitude, a what does it matter demeanor, if it won’t last, why try now?
The second reaction when confronted with the temporary nature of our reality is to go overboard, gather all of the toys you can into your arms, build huge storage centers like EZ Store and Junk R’ Us to hold all of our stuff that we actually never look at for 20 years and end up being surprised by what’s in there! Often when confronted with the temporary nature of our reality many fall into the mid-life crisis of the car, the women or men, the shopping, the acting like your a lot younger than you really are, all trying to hold on to something that was never really there in the first place.
It’s hard not to fall into these extremes of living, one that leads to the isolation of a hermit hole and one that leads to isolation surrounded by shiny objects you can never keep. Neither lead us to good places. But what are we to do and how should we live knowing the truth, that all of this, from the chair I’m sitting on to the Mona Lisa in the museum will all one day be dissolved and remade?
I was sitting in the garden of the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Memory Unit with my wife and grandfather enjoying the sun on our faces. “Why am I here?” Grandpa asked again. We had had this particular conversation in exactly the same way at least ten times in the past 20 minutes. “You have dementia pappy.”
“What’s that?” Grandpa asked once again. “It’s a disease that attacks your brain and you can’t access all of your memories.” “Oh,” Grandpa sighed again. “Do other people have it?” “Yes pappy, all of the people here do, you’re not alone.” “That’s good, but I hope you don’t get it.” “Don’t know what life will bring,” I say with a smile.
Then, after about the tenth time through, talking like we were reading a script, at the end of it grandpa says out of the blue, “I’ve had a good life, nothing to complain about how things are now.” Then he lists what that good life meant to him: love, God, family.
My grandfather started off very poor, the first generation born in the US from a migrant family from Sicily. He was a master bricklayer, carpenter and stone mason. He was never rich, but he worked hard, saved well and financially did well for himself. Grandpa spent his entire life working with his hands, building offices, warehouses and churches including the high steeple of Holy Martyrs Catholic Church in Medina. We still have much of the furniture he built with his own hands in our home. He was surrounded by material things that he built and spent his life crafting but at the end of the day, when even his memory is being taken away from him by disease, what he considers having a good life has nothing to do with all of the material possessions he had or crafted, but only with the immaterial that you can never own but still belongs to you. Love, God, Family.
That kind of statement does not come from a quick moment of realization but from a way that life is lived over the years, especially coming from someone with dementia where there are no pretensions. My grandfather lived that way, he was surrounded by beautiful things, many of which he crafted with his own two hands, but he realized he never really owned them and he didn’t let them own or define him, his treasure was elsewhere.
Our treasure is elsewhere as well. All that is around us, all possessions and even all relationships are a temporary trust shared with us by God the creator of all things, to be used and managed by us in the time we have to store up eternal treasure with God. This eternal treasure is the beauty of a soul that has been redeemed by the Lord, it is the abiding love of God that reaches into a heart so they know they are not alone, it is the glory of God’s grace given freely for us and brings us to God’s New Creation when all of this world and old creation will be dissolved, like gold being refined in the fire, and being remade into an eternal creation where we will dwell and live with God and all of the Saints who belong to the Lord forever.
Our treasure is elsewhere, a treasure that will not rust or decay, be stolen or destroyed, be sold or foreclosed upon, our treasure is elsewhere.
Knowing that our treasure is elsewhere opens up a third way of living when we are confronted with the reality that all of this will one day be dissolved and remade, a different option then ignoring the world or being bloated by the world, this third way of living is unique and comes only from the Christian hope.
This way of living recognizes that not one single thing belongs to us, nor will it remain either forever or often even next year, but all of it is temporary, passing away. But while it is is here and while we are here it is meant to be used, like my grandfather carving a piece of wood, we like master crafters working the goods we have in front of us for the love of God and the good of our neighbor, knowing full well that just like us these as well will be turned to dust tomorrow. But our hope does not lie in how long these temporary tools will last but in how effective they are in accomplishing what God has called us to do: be loved by God, grow together and serve Jesus. That is the measure of worth we give to that which is temporary because our treasure is found with God.
So, what kind of people ought you to be knowing all of this will one day be dissolved and remade? People who have peace that only Jesus can give.