Worn Down By Time

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In this passage from 2nd Corinthians, Paul is using paradox to explain and describe his faith to his readers. Specifically he is explaining his faith in life, not just in this life, but in eternal Life. He is telling us that life is not only present and revealing itself in our biological, sensate lives here and now, but that there is a Life within us that will outlast our experiences of affliction, and even our own death.

Here is one of the paradoxes he uses: “But we have this [eternal] treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (verse 7) And another: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his [eternal] life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (verse 11) And: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (verse 16)

This is why we keep our eyes fixed on what is not seen, rather than what is seen. What we can see with our eyes, touch with our hands, hear with our ears, smell with our noses and taste upon our tongues is as temporary as the moment of each sensation. Everything that we experience is fleeting, nothing lasts beyond the moment. Some have always depended on great monuments in stone, or a “legacy” of fame, or accomplishment for their immortality in this world, but even the great pyramids of Egypt are worn down by time, winds and rains, and one day even they will be forgotten because they will have turned into nothing but sand in the vast desert. So many people today are either ignorant of, or indifferent to, the heroes of the past. Many, too, are hostile toward mattes of faith in things “unseen.” They put their faith, rather, in the all too fleeting “heroes” of today and, ironically, are always disappointed. These “heroes,” like all human beings, have clay feet. They will fade away as surely as the grasses fade when the seasons of lushness pass into the dead season of winter. Indeed, could there be a more impatient, or fickle time in history than our own? We have been called a “throw away” society for good reason. We grow weary of things we can see and touch so quickly today, and we move on to other things with such ironic alacrity. Because we only see the things before us, we commit to nothing. We grow bored when things no longer satisfy our immediate gratification and move quickly on to the next thing only to be disappointed again. But, because we Christians believe in what is “unseen,” we can willingly and cheerfully commit ourselves to one another and to all that is good, true, just, and beautiful wholeheartedly. Yes, even when times are difficult.

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As Christians, we believe that, though we are flesh and subject to suffering and death, we trust in the ‘unseen’ God’s love, his grace, and his infinite mercy, faithfully. Though we are earthen vessels, we believe that we carry within us eternal Life. That eternal Life was breathed into us at the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb. Over the long progress of our earthly lives, we often tarnish that Life by sinning, but we believe confidently that, if we turn to God in true sorrow and repentance, he will joyfully wash us clean and make us new again, and again. Because we believe this, we try to live our lives in grateful thanksgiving. We know that our physical lives are temporary and subject to death. But we also know and believe that in giving ourselves over to God in this life, by loving each other as Jesus loved us, we are destined to live forever in the presence of Infinite Love. This is our joy. This is our reason for being. This is why we can endure our sufferings in this world. Thanks be to the merciful and the loving wisdom of God.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed upon you. It is hard to do this sometimes in this world so full of noise and temptation. But you are our strength. We put our trust in you alone. Help us to remain true to our faith and to you, for we long to see your face. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.