Today's spin of the iPod shuffle wheel pulled up a little tune from Willie Nelson. The song is titled "Funny How Time Slips Away" and it is one of his signature songs. I realize that Willie is, for some, an acquired taste. I do not endorse Willie's alleged recreational choices or his tax-paying discipline. Although his IRS habits would qualify him for a Cabinet post today. But I digress. I do like Willie's ability to make lyrics real. In this song he laments the loss of a love.
Well hello there my it's been a long long time
How am I doin' oh I guess that I'm doin' fine
It's been so long now but it seems now it was only yesterday
Gee ain't it funny how time slips away
It is not really funny how time slips away. It is scary. I am now past the halfway mark toward becoming a centenarian although I have a much better shot at being a contrarian. It seems like yesterday that I was playing sandlot baseball as a kid. Moments ago I was in high school being ADD before attention deficit was cool. Just yesterday I met the stunning Joni Banks and somehow conned her into dating me. Couldn't have been too long ago that I donned the hideous baby blue tux to wed my beloved. Wasn't it just weeks ago that three adorable baby boys came into our lives? How is it possible that I am now directing the television broadcast exploits of baseball players that were not even born when I started this gig?
Time does slip away. The best line on parenting I have heard is that the days are long but the years are short. Amen. I now am the father of a 31 year old, a 29 year old, and a 24 year old. When did that happen? Married 34 years. Are you kidding me?
I have had, if I may borrow the franchise of Frank Capra, a wonderful life. Not devoid of tragedy and trouble to be sure. I have lost a very dear nephew to leukemia, a daughter to terminal birth defects, my father and mother and many other family members and friends. My bride has battled cancer in recent years. But we are blessed beyond comprehension. And I believe that is because we have found our reason for being here. Rick Warren summed it up nicely in a recent interview.
People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond, In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body - but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillion of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act, the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity. We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life: The goal is to grow in character, In Christ-likeness.
If this is the warm-up act for my eternity gig on the main stage then all of this is merely preparation. Football players hate the two-a-day practices in the brutal heat. But they love the exhilaration of victory that the difficult preparation allows for later in the season. Sometimes the two-a-days of life seem cruel and without purpose. But my understanding of the God who made me and His purpose for me allows me to believe there is purpose and design. I don't always see it. I love being happy and carefree. But if my purpose is preparation for my real gig then I had better be a little more interested in trusting in the One who can reconcile sinful me with a Holy God. Paul wrote this in the book of Colossians.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Col 3, NLT)
The song continues…
I gotta go now I guess I'll see you around
Don't know when though never know when I'll be back in town
But remember what I tell you in time you're gonna pay
And it's surprising how time slips away
The songwriter is correct. In time you're gonna pay. But perhaps not in the sense that the lyric implies. And not in the heavy handed way that too many Christians use to threaten eternal damnation to those who oppose them. We are created to be in fellowship with our Creator and you will pay a price if you ignore that truth. I believe you will pay a price of less fulfillment, purpose and joy during this life. Time is slipping away for all of us. Set your sights on eternity and enjoy the journey of preparation. We never know how many mile markers remain.