The Gift of Life

Today as I was driving along, I was thinking about some things that I would like to have happen before I die. For example, I’m really looking forward to a new record that’s coming out this month, and I was thinking I would be a little bummed out if I would die before I would hear it. I mean obviously, the music of Heaven is going to be indescribably beautiful . . . Then I started thinking this like, That’s dumb. You have the prospect of eternal life and you are worried about some record? 

There are, of course, other things I would like to do before I die. I would like to travel to a lot of places before I die as well: Europe, Asia, Australia, and take a road trip around the United States that would allow me experience subcultures within the US. I also think it would be neat to write a book, or own a coffee shop, or be a part or full time touring musician.

I kept thinking, You must have some messed up priorities if you are thinking about all these temporal things and you’ve got a relationship that will allow you to spend eternity with Jesus. He is the true reality after all.

But the more I mused on it, I thought, But don’t all these things mean that God has imparted at least a measure of his goodness to us in this life? Of course it does.

What does all of this mean? I think the idea of God’s gift of life is important for us to remember. I think He’s given us all this stuff, so that we want to live life. What would be the point of God even giving us the chance to live on the earth at all if all we wanted to do was go on to the next life?

I think if we actually knew how absolutely incredible Heaven was, it would be really tough not to be depressed about how lame this life is compared to eternal life. If we even had a tiny taste of the “joys substantial and sincere” on the other side of the temporary, it would be difficult to live contentedly in the now.

If there was nothing good in earthly life, nothing temporal to look forward to, we would always be grouchy. We would always be complaining about how awful this life is and how we just can’t wait to go to Heaven. Granted, there are plenty of things God allows into our lives to remind us that we were created for so much more than this life, but it’s not wrong to enjoy the good and simple things that make up life.

The physical is what is most apparent to us, so really, it’s what we have to work with. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the spiritual. Not at all. But embracing the spiritual doesn’t mean denying the physical. I think Christians should be known for their zest for life–not sitting around waiting for Heaven.

We have a lot to love about life. We don’t have to wait for Heaven to have a relationship with Jesus. We have that right now. That fact should not cause us to sit around in our living rooms sighing about wishing we could die so we can go to Heaven. It should cause us to live life with an otherworldly zeal, making people around us wonder what is wrong (or right) with us. What is this that allows us to live life with such passion and purpose.

That said, we have more than enough people on the planet that are living only for what they can take in with their five senses. I’m not talking about such an existence. Our lives should influence people like that to think deeply about the fact that we were made as eternal souls that were “meant to live for so much more.”

The lyrics from the chorus “Afterlife,” a song on Switchfoot’s up and coming record spoke to this idea wonderfully. I like the idea that, though we live in a fallen world that’s going to end, it is not a good reason to feel apathetic about the current existence or dislike it.

Afterlife

“Everyday
The world is made
A chance to change
But I feel the same

And I wonder why
Would I wait till I die
To come alive?
I’m ready now
I’m not waiting for the afterlife”

Your thoughts?

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12 comments on “The Gift of Life

  1. Eugene says:

    Eternal life starts now.

    • rjshetler says:

      I like that. I think I’ve heard it before or heard something similar. Do you know where it comes from or is it original with you?

      • Eugene says:

        Sorry, I have conversational ADHD. Not sure where I heard it first – Googling the phrase turns up plenty of different quotations.

        I do remember discussions about this in Israel with RVL – that ‘eternal life’ refers to its quality, to something being offered to us now, not when we die. Perhaps this is where ‘laying down one’s life’ comes from: as long as we’re determined to govern our own destiny, our future stops when biology stops. But if we lose ourselves in the life that comes from God, we’re living something eternal.

  2. Ben Reimer says:

    Good Thinking Ryan, made me think as well. Like about not wanting to leave this place, its almost like we don’t believe there is a Heaven!

  3. Sherilyn Miller says:

    I so agree with the first comment… one of the first times in the Gospels that Jesus talks about the kingdom of Heaven He says it is “as close to us as the air we breathe.” I LOVE that, I think the more we become like Jesus the more we experience and see life from God’s perspective, and see how rich and full it is because He is so Good and has given so much, much, even now to enjoy and taste and see. And I personally think Christians should be the most alive,passionate people on earth, alive yes, to both pain and joy, and there is a lot of pain here, and yet so so much joy too, that is so much deeper than our circumstances. OK, this whole thing of seeing life here as part of the Kingdom of Heaven is something I am crazy passionate about, so I will get off my soap box before I write a post. 🙂

  4. becca says:

    Ever feel like we’re heavily influenced by gnosticism? I do whenever I hear Christians say things that make it sound like actual life doesn’t start until after we die. I wonder how many God-fearing people will get to the ends of their lives and wish they hadn’t wasted so much time longing for what comes afterward… and put more energy into redeeming what could be amazing and beautiful now. Isn’t that a big reason we walk the earth? Speaking of which, I really want that new Switchfoot album. I’ve been too preoccupied with Reggae lately to notice much else.

    And I happened to find your blog and wanted to say “good stuff!”

    peace,
    becca

    • rjshetler says:

      I agree with that. That has got to be a frustrating and disappointing existence. I think all of us will get to the end of life wishing we had done more. But it’s my intention to make it as little that way as possible. Life is too great a gift, too great a responsibility, to wish it away, and not enjoy the subtle little things and also the big experiences that make it up.

      Yes, Switchfoot’s new record is going to be absolutely fantastic. Have you heard any of it yet? I have listened to the whole thing except for the last song, which they won’t let people listen to until the album’s release date. I kind of wished I would have the discipline to wait until my pre-order arrived, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t wait. 🙂

      Thanks for your kind words. As an aspiring writer I always appreciate affirmation.

    • rjshetler says:

      Oh and I was going to mention, Switchfoot tries out Reggae on one of the songs on Vice Verses, “Blinding Light.” It’s terrific. So, if you’re on a Reggae kick, you wouldn’t completely have to ditch that by getting their new album.

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