Gilbert Chesterton once pointed out that there was a time when you and I, and all of us, were once all very close to God so that even now, the colour of a pebble, or the smell of a flower, comes to our hearts with a kind of authority and certainty. They stop us in our tracks as if they were fragments of a muddled message or the features of a forgotten face.
King Solomon put it this way,
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
The mountains are beautiful. Babies, crystal-clear oceans, lightning, songbirds, marching ants and women are beautiful. There is even a time when tears are beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
We don’t quite know why; there are no words, but they are.
I know that I love my wife, and I could give you a dozen reasons why in an instant. But the first time I saw her, I didn’t know anything. All I know is that she stopped me in my tracks. My eyes grew wide and my heart went boom.
Was it destiny? Was it written into eternity, before time began?
As Chesterton said, the message is somewhat muddled. As Solomon said, no man can quite figure it out. But there it is. And all we know as we stare and stoop in wonder is that, in all of these fragments, we are witnessing something beautiful.
Perhaps this is, at least in part, what it means to have eternity in our hearts.
There is something beyond ourselves. Something we almost had but lost along the way (Genesis 3:22). Something outside ourselves. Someone we once knew and calling us forward. Something beautiful. Something connected with a forgotten eternity.
Perhaps this is why Jesus likens our salvation to having our eyes opened. Because it is only when we see Jesus that the puzzle of life and all it’s echoing beauty begins to become clear.
To use Jesus’s own words,
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
All of creation invites us to set our face toward eternity. To stop and be staggered. And it turns out that it is the face of an old forgotten friend (John 15:15). Jesus.
But He is more than a friend. He is a Saviour who saves to the utmost. Who reveals Himself to us in His word and in all that He has created.
Love is good, but what good is the love of a husband you’ve never met? Forgiveness is good. But what use is the pardon of a king you’ve never known? Reconciliation is nice. But it only makes sense if you’re being reconciled to someone you once knew.
Eternal life is what happens when mortal man is reunited with the Heavenly Man, the Tree of Life. In knowing Him, death is not so deadly, and grief not so grievous.
Eternal life, that mysterious thing that calls us forward through its beauty, is answered and satisfied in Him.
Jesus isn’t a detour. He is not a signpost pointing to eternal life. He is eternal life. And that life has come down.
And this is eternal life. That you may know Him, the Son whom God has sent.
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