Transience and Permanence
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” – Matthew 24:35
When I was a child, I believed that our house was the most solid reality in my life. I could not conceive of a time when it did not exist. I certainly could not imagine it ever ceasing to exist. It was so strong, so firm, and warm inside. It was a world unto itself, a place removed from the larger, more threatening environment. It was real.
There was an old oak tree in our backyard, majestic oak, reaching upward beyond any heights I believed I would ever scale. To be as tall as that oak, or at least to sit in its highest branches and look out over creation would have been the grandest of human elevations. When I lay on my back under the summer night sky, gazing into the stars, it was in the shadow of our old oak tree which I believed had much in common with those distant stars.
My house and my oak were sources of strength in my young life until one day the neighbor's house was struck by lightning and burned. Later, our Governor's daughter (and the cousin of my classmates) was struck by lightning on the beach and killed. That year, I watched my father build a room in the attic and with fascination and disappointment I came to know that houses were built with hands and were thus, somewhat artificial, and profoundly vulnerable to forces like lightning, as were people.
But the oak continued to shade us in the summer and shield us in the winter. It was the mightiest oak on our avenue. One day, the old oak was struck by lightning also. It too was vulnerable to the forces of nature. One of its most noble branches was severed and fell upon our house.
Concerned that the old tree might give way in another storm and destroy our house, my parents made plans for its removal. Little did it matter that the oak had been there long before us and had reigned over the neighborhood before it was a neighborhood. It was old and had grown too tall and brittle.
I learned some lessons about transience and permanence through that old tree. Nothing of this earth is permanent. All stability and strength are in God alone.
Jesus was a mighty oak and they chopped Him down, but He stood up again, alive and thriving. His words last; His promises endure; His truth prevails. Nothing can silence Him. He is the temple that was destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He is the Word and He is the only permanence in a transient world.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36
We knew she was coming sometime, just not when. We knew that every day brought the visit closer, but we were not certain exactly what day. We cleaned the house once, twice, and then again. Finally, we just got in the habit of keeping it clean. We’d stare out the window and watch, waiting for our great aunt to arrive with gifts and hugs. We were children. Our parents understood the calendar better than we could. We only knew the seasons and it was the right season for a visit.
Don’t be dismayed that God keeps some things secret. He knows better than to entrust us with every detail of His plans. There are some things we simply could not understand if we were told in plain language. He tells us what is necessary and withholds what would breed complacency and contempt for His ways. Not knowing the details of His second coming means that we can live in constant expectancy of His appearing. We wait on tiptoes. We lift our hearts in wonder. Waiting for His redemption gives us a clue as to the spirit of messianic expectation that must have gripped the hearts of the faithful who waited patiently for His first coming.
Shepherds and wise men all eagerly sought word of salvation. While others despaired and resigned themselves to business as usual, there were always those who kept hope alive in their hearts. Our job in our generation is to eagerly seek Him in everything.
Jesus has come and Jesus is coming. Both statements stir the heart and ignite the imagination. Hope, born in the hearts of children, inspires hope in those who are tired of waiting. The call comes rolling down through the centuries. Live in constant expectation and you will never be disappointed.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.