“This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:13b-16).”
One thing I like about living adjacent to a major university is the abundance of cheap, even free, events on campus. This week the performing arts department of the school is putting on a play, so I asked my wife to go with me. She agreed, so I bought some tickets and we went.
The play is one I remember vaguely from childhood, “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. I don’t remember exactly when I saw it, but I believe it was in high school. I recall it as a renactment of the rustic, traditional features of the way America used to be. I sometimes mourn the passing of the old America, so I wanted to see this play.
Actually, while the plot did reveal the nature of small-town New Hampshire at the turn of the 20th century, its theme was much broader than that. The “Director’s Note” in the program I received explains:
“This play is not about nostalgia, or the goodness of American life at the turn of the 20th century or in the 1930s. In fact, it’s not about any sort of nostalgia. This play is about right now. It’s about you and me sitting here in the seats of this theatre together –today, right now. It about what we spend most ouf our daily lives worrying over and how that’s keeping us from remembering what’s eternal.”
For me, the most stirring part of the play is the final act. In this section, Emily dies in childbirth, leaving a young husband and children. She joins earlier townspeople in the cemetery, reflecting on the nature of life.
Emily realizes that she has the capability to view her old life from her place in eternity. The others counsel against it, but she decides to go back and view her 12th birthday.
Emily observes the seemingly mundane activities in the household of her childhold, such as her mother preparing breakfast and getting the kids off to school. While watching this scene she jas an epiphany from her perspective in eternity: every minute should be valued. She asks the narrator if people understand this, and is told, “No. Saints and poets maybe. They do some.”
We saints do in fact understand a little about eternity. Therefore, we have a responsibility to live life to its fullest, but not in fulfilling our selfish ambitions. What sits in the back of my mind nagging at me is that people are sleepwalking through life and will one day face eternity, and that it is my job to wake them up, yet I am slumbering along with them.
The wise man of Proverbs tells believers:
“Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
” If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
As people who know something about eternity, we ought to be lovingly reminding others of it. What keeps me from doing this other than plain cowardice is the battlefield of life. It puts a stranglehold on my time, and my mind, will and emotions.
Yet, in reading the Psalmist it seems to me that God is there to protect and watch over those who are still alive, yet are engaged in living for Him. Part of living for God is to prepare for eternity, and to bring others along.
Why else am I still here? It’s definitely not so I can build the big house with the mountain view or hit all the games of my favorite football team. There’s nothing wrong with these things really, but they should be done in the context of living and serving Jesus Christ and bringing others to Him for all time.
The director of the version of the play we saw last night tells us to wake up:
“Many of us say we couldn’t live without texting or Facebook, or a lot of money, or how our career makes us someone, or something to do on the weekend. Whatever it is each of us worries over, can it be that we are all among those whom Thornton Wilder suggests is forgetting the fact that something in us knows about the eternal? Look, it’s not fashionable to walk into a party or a classroom or an interview saying, or even thinking, things like ‘something is eternal in my bones.’ So much in our culture begs us to forget, to rise up and be successful, to move fast and keep up. And yet each of us, regardless of our perceived successes and failures, really does know that something is eternal in our bones.”(Andy Belser)
Every moment does count somehow in God’s scheme of things. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, and pass some along to our friends, relatives, colleagues, even the stranger on the street in our town.