I LOVE TIMELINES!
A carefully constructed timeline can communicate a massive amount of information
in an easily digestible format that will
A timeline can bring history to life for the person who might not be inclined to read about the same series of events if they were simply described on the printed page.
We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren this year, and since 2012, I have been thinking about the timeline that will represent that century and a half for our congregation and for our neighbors and friends who may stop by during our open house in August.
The folks at PLCOB will help me create the timeline that has yet to be transformed from thought to reality. Most of my willing helpers just have servant hearts; only one or two share my passion for history, but I am confident that in the end we will all enjoy following the story of our church in a pictorial and graphic display of fifteen decades.
We are using a relatively large scale for our timeline. With three inches to represent each year, it will surround the sanctuary with symbols to mark births, marriages, and deaths. Many beloved saints will have their entire lifespans charted out on our anniversary scroll. For example, my father’s life which began in 1928 and ended in 2016 will extend through more than half of the history of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren.
The timeline will be a valuable part of our celebration, but it will also present a somewhat distorted impression of the duration of life. Fortunately the Bible makes it possible for us to step back far enough to see the timeline of eternity. Our perspective changes dramatically when we see the brevity of life illustrated for us again and again in vivid metaphors and striking similes.
We are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Life on earth is a shadow, a breath, a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes. We are told that our days pass swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, or a runner, or an eagle swooping on the prey. All flesh is like the grass withers, and the flower that falls, and we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
I had already determined the length and chosen the location for our 150th timeline in January when I got another reminder of the approaching portal with the news about my elevated liver enzymes. My favorite kind of history project took on a deeper spiritual dimension, as I thought of one more metaphor for life in this world: a stroke on the timeline of eternity.
Does a stroke on a timeline, a breath, a vapor, or a shadow hold any lasting meaning? That’s the same question that the author of Ecclesiastes ponders. It’s the same question asked by people from all belief systems, in all lands, through all ages.
It seems that in our current culture far too many people believe the answer to the question is “no.” Missing the meaning of life has tragic consequences that can be seen in the legalization of abortion, the growing acceptance of euthanasia, and the rising rates of suicide.
If life were just the result of random particles colliding, then it would make perfect sense to simply opt out whenever circumstances become difficult or painful. In fact, it would make little sense to endure any kind of hardship in what is ultimately only a decades-long march to the grave.
But our meaning doesn’t come from biological life: our meaning comes rather from the God who is LIFE!
My life is not just a breath: my life is a breath in God’s lungs,
a shadow of God’s Spirit,
a flower in God’s field,
a sigh of God’s voice.
And with that knowledge, I am content as my life draws to a close even when
many dreams haven’t come true,
many hopes remain unfulfilled,
and many plans never materialized.
I rest in the certainty that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, because I know that all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.
My years are not just a stroke on the timeline of eternity: my years are a small but glorious portion of the masterpiece God is using this world to complete.