Young parents typically rejoice when their children learn new phrases.
“Honey, little Bobby just said bye-bye!”
“Mom, you’ll never believe what your granddaughter just did. She counted to five.”
Or, “Ernie, tell your uncle what the bird says.”
We applaud such moments. I did too.
With one exception.
One phrase my daughter learned gave me pause. Jenna was nearly or barely two years of age, just learning to speak well. With her little hand lost in my big one, we walked through the lobby of our apartment building. Suddenly she stopped. Spotting a ball, she looked up at me and requested, “Just a moment.” Sliding her hand from mine, she walked away.
A moment? Who told her about “moments”? To date, her existence had been time-free. Toddlers know no beginning or end or hurry or slow or late or soon. The small world of a child is huge in the present and small in the future and past. But Jenna’s phrase, “Just a moment,” announced that time had entered her world.
In his autobiography, The Sacred Journey, Frederick Buechner divides his life into three parts: “Once below a time,” “Once above a time,” and “Beyond time.” The childhood years, he says, are lived “once below a time . . . What child, while summer is happening, bothers to think that summer will end? What child, when snow is on the ground, stops to remember that not long ago the ground was snowless?” 1
Is childhood for us what life in the garden was like for Adam and Eve? Before the couple swallowed the line of Satan and the fruit of the tree, no one printed calendars or wore watches or needed cemeteries. The world was time-free. Minutes passed equally unmeasured in Jenna’s two-year-old world. No thought of life being anything different than daily walks and naps and music and Mom and Dad. But “just a moment” belied the intrusion of pirates on her innocent island. Time had invaded her world.
Life, she was discovering, was a cache of moments: measurable and countable increments, like change in a pocket or buttons in a can. Your pocket may be full of decades, my pocket may be down to a few years, but everyone has a certain number of moments.
Everyone, that is, except God. As we list the mind-stretching claims of Christ, include this one near the top. “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (
Scripture broadcasts this attribute in surround sound. God is “from everlasting” (
Trace the tree back to a seed. Trace the dress back to a factory. Trace the baby back to a mommy. Trace God back to . . . to . . . to . . .
No one. Not even God made God. “From eternity I am he” (
He doesn’t view history as a progression of centuries, but as a single photo. He captures your life, your entire life, in one glance. He sees your birth and burial in one frame. He knows your beginning and your end because he has neither.
Doesn’t make sense, does it? Eternity makes no sense to us, the time-bound. You might as well be handed a book written in kanji (unless, of course, you are Japanese.) You look at the characters and all you see is zigzagged lines. You shake your head – this language finds no home in your mind.
But what if someone taught you how to read and write the language? Suppose a native speaker had the time and you had the will and that day-by-day the symbols that mean nothing to you began to mean something?
With God’s help, the same is happening to you and me regarding eternity. He is teaching us the language. “He has set eternity in their heart” (
Remember the story of the eagle who was raised by chickens? From the floor of the barnyard she spots an eagle in the clouds and her heart stirs. “I can do that!” she whispers. The other chickens laugh, but she knows better. She was born different. Born with a belief.
You were too. Your world extends beyond the barnyard of time. You are a forever person. Your heavenly life Everests the pebbles of your earthly life. If grains of sand measured the two, how would they stack up? Heaven would be every grain of sand on every beach on earth, plus more. Earthly life, by contrast, would be one hundredth of one grain of sand. Need a phrase to summarize the length of your life on earth? Try Jenna’s, “Just a moment.”
Wasn’t this the phrase of choice for Paul? “Our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (
What if we had a glimpse of the apostle as he wrote those words? By this time he had been “beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times,” he writes, “I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep” (
What if we took the same attitude toward life? What if we saw our tough times as a grain of sand scarcely worthy of contrast with the forever dunes?
What if the woman who stopped me the other day would do that? She spoke of seventeen years of a bad marriage. His mistakes, her mistakes. His drinking, her impatience. And now, she wants out. After all, her life is blitzing past. If she is going to live, she best get busy! Besides, who can assure her that the marriage will work? How does she know that she’s not in for two more decades of tough times? She doesn’t.
“All about me” counsel says, “Life is short – get out.”
God’s wisdom, however, says, “Life is short – stay in.”
The brevity of life grants power to abide not an excuse to bail. Fleeting days don’t justify fleeing problems. Fleeting days strengthen us to endure problems. Will your problems pass? No guarantee they will. Will your pain cease? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But heaven gives this promise, “our light affliction, which is for but a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (
The words “weight of glory” conjure up images of the ancient pan scale. Remember the blindfolded lady of justice? She holds a pan scale – two pans on either side of the needle. The weight of the purchase would be determined by placing weights on one side and the produce on the other.
God does the same with your struggles. On one side he stacks all of your burdens. Famines, firings. Parents who forgot you. Bosses who ignored you. Bad breaks, bad health, bad days. Stack them up and watch one side of the pan scale plummet.
Now witness God’s response. Does he remove them? Eliminate the burdens? No, rather than take them, he offsets them. He places an eternal weight of glory on the other side. Endless joy. Measureless peace. An eternity of him. Watch what happens as he sets eternity on your scale.
Everything changes! The burdens lift. The heavy becomes light when weighed against eternity. If life is “just a moment” can’t we endure any challenge for a moment?
We can be sick for just a moment.
We can be lonely for just a moment.
We can be persecuted for just a moment.
We can struggle for just a moment.
Can’t we wait for our peace? It’s not about us anyway. And it’s certainly not about now.
Max Lucado is minister of Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, TX.
From It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado. Integrity Publishers, 2004. Used by permission.
1. Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (New York: Harper and Row, 1982) 9.