Imagine you and I are standing together in my back yard. I have in my hand a stake with a roll of paper 3 inches wide wound around it. I ask you to drive the stake into the ground, which you do with finesse and strength. A helicopter descends, a passenger reaches out, takes of the roll of paper, flies north, carefully unwinding the 3-inch roll of paper. At 25 miles, it reaches the end of the roll, lands, and the passenger drives another stake in the ground, attaching his end of the roll to it. (Okay, Herb, where are you headed on this one?) Hang with me.
We begin to walk along the roll, reading the history of time. We see the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the expulsion from the Garden. Cain and Abel. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the exodus from Egypt, conquering the Promised Land, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah. The kingdoms of Babylon, Greece, Rome. David killing giants and writing songs, Solomon exercising wisdom (as judge if not at home), the enslavement of Israel for disobedience. We come to a picture of a huge cross, the story of Jesus "earthly life" Christmas, His temptation, miracles, death, resurrection and the gift of His Presence through the Holy Spirit.
We continue on to see the early Church continuing the work of Jesus, we see persecution after persecution, the acceptance of Christianity by Caesar Constantine, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the sad irony of the Crusades, the Dark Ages, the Enlightenment, George Washington and the American Revolution, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, the embarrassing hairstyles and clothes of the seventies, the upheaval of the past two decades, September 11. We finally pause, after many miles of history, at the present day.
You look carefully for your own life, (as we always do, trying to find ourselves in a picture), but can't quite make it out. I hand you a very powerful magnifying glass, with which you finally see your name and birth date. After checking for a date of death (sorry, it's not there), you look closer to see the symbol representing your life - a dot. "A dot!" you roar, "My life is only a dot! All the time and energy I put into living on this rock, and it is only a dot!"
Yep, a dot. In the scheme of history you and I are only a dot, a spot, a pencil mark, a speck, an instant, a moment, a mark on the long march of time. Perspective is humiliating. Read on.
Only a dot, but we are on the long line of time. A dot in the context of all that is before and all that will be. I found a definition: "a line is a straight one-dimensional figure having no thickness and extending infinitely in both directions." (http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Line.html)
What catches my eye is the phrase "extending infinitely in both directions." Standing on our dot we can see the line extending forever, (not human history, but God's existence). Looking forward we see the same, except there is a change. Somewhere ahead the line fades into a vast, golden carpet that leads to a mansion beyond anything the lives of the "rich and famous" have ever imagined. At the door stands the Savior Himself, open armed. Catch the picture? You are an almost invisible mark on the history of time, yet part of the eternity God has created.
All of which begs the question, are we living for the dot or the line? And another, should we be living for the dot or the line? The second question is easy to answer; it is a simple matter of mathematics. The first is harder, challenging us to surrender what we can see, touch, taste and feel, for what is mostly unseen but claiming to be more real. The dot will quickly be over; the line and all the dots on it, will last forever.
Living for the dot of this short, earthly existence or the line of eternity that lasts forever and ends in an existence in Heaven that, for Christ followers, is beyond our best imagination is the choice we make every day. Just that most days we don't recognize we are making it. What will you do today?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mat 16:24-26 (NIV)