Friday, February 15, 2008

A Dot on a Line

At Annapolis Area Christian School, Grandparents Day was a highlight of the year. Grandparents traveled from all over the country to attend this event. It began with a chapel in which grandparents were honored, the children performed, and a general welcome was given. Then the grandparents came down to the classrooms. In fifth grade, we had an interview with the grandparents planned. I had prepped the kids ahead of time, and they had a list of questions ready for the occasion. We asked them about their life experiences as they lived the history we were now studying. Then there was a general discussion which I led. We went through each decade the grandparents lived, giving them a chance to share memories with the children of what life was like “back then.” Both grandparents and children alike enjoyed the morning immensely. At the end of the morning, the grandparents signed their grandchildren out and took them to lunch.

One year, the day after Grandparents Day, I arrived at school to hear terrible news. One of the grandparents who had been in my room laughing with the children the day before, had suddenly passed away. He drove into his driveway after a poker night with friends, turned off the ignition, and died of a heart attack. The principal told me I would need to talk about this with my class, since word would spread quickly among the students. I racked my brain as I walked down the hall. How could I tell the children about this death so close to them in a way that would give them hope?

I ended up drawing a line on the chalkboard. It went all the way across the length of two boards, with arrows on each end. The kids knew that the mathematical definition of a line was that it went on and on forever in both directions. I labeled the line “eternity.” Then, in the middle of the board, I placed a dot on the line. This dot represents our lives on earth, I told them. From that small point, the line extended in one direction forever. What did the ray mean? I asked. The kids knew that they would live forever because of the eternal life that had been given to them. So life on earth was just a beginning, which was dwarfed when eternity stretched beyond it as far as you could imagine. Once we understood that perspective, the end of a life on earth took on new meaning. Within that context, I was able to tell the children that a grandfather had left the earth, beginning his life in eternity.

Paul tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) Comparing the here and now to eternity is like trying to understand the vastness of space in relation to distance as we know it here on earth. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is so huge it takes the stars in it 200 million years to revolve around its center just once. It has approximately 250 billion stars. That is just one galaxy. Scientists now estimate that there are 100 billion other galaxies. It is impossible to wrap our minds around the size of the universe. In the same way, trying to understand eternity with the reference point of the eighty or so years that we exist on earth boggles the mind.

We must think of our time here as temporary. Our reality for the overwhelmingly vast majority of our lives will be the life we live in Heaven with Christ. We need to live with an eye on the city yet to come, as Abraham did according to Hebrews 11:10.

The decisions we make in how we live our temporary life here on earth should be a reflection of that reality. It is a waste of time to build up temporary treasure that can be lost or stolen, as Jesus told his disciples. We must instead invest our time and our energy on the things that will impact eternity. This will mean spending money in ways other than indulging ourselves in temporary pleasures. It will affect the ways we choose to spend our time. Our relationships will become about what we can do to help others along in their journeys. Because someday we will be looking back on that little dot and wish we had done more.

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