Maybe all of us have asked the question at one time or another, “Is there more to life than this?” One of my favorite country songs says it this way, “You know I’m more and more convinced the longer that I live that this can’t be–No, this can’t be. No, this can’t be all there is!” (from Believe)
A book I read recently brought this strongly to mind. It put me through an emotional wringer (for reasons I might share in a future post) and sent me to my Bible to soak in some of God’s familiar promises. The novel is this month’s book club selection, Crossings Oceans by Gina Holmes.
Since some of you may have the same question in your heart, I’d like to focus on one aspect this significant story brought out: What happens when life on earth is through?
First, a story summary: Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes, is the poignant and lovely story of Jenny Lucas, who must “navigate the rough and unknown waters of the new reality in her life when she returns home with her young daughter to her stoic, distant father and her oxygen-toting grandmother.” The story speaks to some of the universal themes we all deal with—moving on from unrequited love, learning to forgive, letting go of the past, becoming a better person for those we cherish, and adjusting to whatever ‘new normal’ life throws our way.
One of the key relationships in the book is between Jenny and her dad. These two can’t even discuss the weather without throwing in digs and accusations.
The main source of misunderstanding between them stems from the fact that they’ve both been marked by watching beloved wife and mother, Audra, suffer the ravages of cancer. Since Jenny was a teen when her mother died, she sorely needed the comfort of her surviving parent, but her dad closed himself off behind a wall of bitterness. Only after many heartaches and wasted years, are they able to bridge the gap between them.
Look at how the following lines from the novel describe one of Jenny’s visits to her mother’s grave:
I knelt on the grass, ignoring the lumpy ground pressing into my bare knees. Though some found it sacrilegious to set foot on a grave, let alone sit atop it, to me it was as close to my mother’s lap as I’d get on this side of heaven.
Even as an adult, Jenny longs for her mother. Audra’s death has shadowed her life. We’ve probably all read about the process of grieving and the steps involved, even if we’ve never experienced them. Yet, like Jenny and her father, we’re reticent to speak of it, deal with it, or prepare for it. But we don’t need to be if we’ll simply educate ourselves from a trustworthy source. The Bible says that we were created to live forever.
I believe deep down inside, we all know this to be true because God has placed eternity in our hearts. We find ourselves longing for permanence. We try to build things that will last forever: pyramids filled with mementos, towers that reach the sky, unsinkable ships. Yet eternity may only be found in Christ. Through Him, we’re promised a new heaven and a new earth.
Just think of it: all that we love and none of what we detest. No more crying, sickness, death, disease, abuse, power-struggles, tsunamis, earthquakes, unemployment, poverty—you name it!
And I also believe that the more firmly convinced we are of our salvation, of Christ holding our lives in His hands, the more confident we’ll feel that there’s more to life than this. Not that we’re eager to see our happy lives on earth end any time soon! But don’t we all want to know that there’s more to come? That this life is just prologue to an incredible future?
Jenny believes it. After witnessing her mother’s experience with death, she becomes convinced that there is life everlasting for the child of God. While at the grave, she thinks of this:
I looked back down to her headstone. “Here lie the remains of Audra Ann Lucas, beloved wife, daughter, friend. Do not mourn her, for she lives.” As if I hadn’t see these words a thousand times, I stared, amazed at the profoundness of them.
Jenny’s new perspective also gives her an appreciation for the beauty of life here on earth:
I closed my eyes, letting the sun rays soak into my anemic flesh. They felt as nourishing to my soul as Isabella’s kisses or Mama Peg’s touch. The simple joy of breathing fresh air, feeling the sun and being among the green God created filled me with amazement. I scanned the trees with their heavy limbs, the grass cushion under me, and the wisps of white sailing on a sea of blue above. The simple grandeur of it all took my breath away. Placing a hand over my heart, I marveled at such beauty—so familiar and yet it felt new. I’d had all this at my disposal my entire life, but I’d never really appreciated it.
Jenny learns much from her mother’s death and comes to truly believe that she’ll see her again. Her epiphany reminded me of an old story told by Bible teacher and preacher J. Vernon McGee:
There is a story of sweetness and beauty which enlightens the heart of every person who has lost a loved one to death. It concerns a custom among the shepherd folk of the Alps. In the summertime when the grass in the lower valleys withers and dries up, the shepherds seek to lead their sheep up a winding, thorny, and stony pathway to the high grazing lands. The sheep, reluctant to take the difficult pathway infested with dangers and hardships, turn back and will not follow. The shepherds make repeated attempts, but the timid sheep will not follow.
Finally a shepherd reaches into the flock and takes a lamb and places it under his arm, then reaches again and takes another lamb, placing it under the other arm. Then he starts up the precipitous pathway. Soon the mother sheep start to follow and afterward the entire flock. At last they ascend the torturous trail to green pastures.
The Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, has reached into the flock and He has picked up a lamb. He did not do it to rob you but to lead you out and upward. He has richer and greener pastures for you, and He wants you to follow. For as He promised:
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I [Christ] go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” ~John 14:2,3
Now that’s a promise you can build your life upon!
How about you?
- Can you relate to Jenny’s experience?
- What are your thoughts on eternity?
- How should our view of eternity affect our lives today?
- Any words of hope to share?
There will be a day . . .