Say the word after and there may be a variety of impressions, experiences, and emotions that follow. It’s one of those words we meet early in childhood and sometimes connects with the word before that I wrote about a few days ago. You likely can think of many examples from those earliest memories. You likely heard that you could watch a favorite TV show after your homework or after you finished your chores. You may have heard you could have that treat your mouth was drooling for after you finished your vegetables or whatever else you were not so excited about eating.
There were other places you heard it often as well. There were things you wanted to do or get. Maybe it was a special bicycle, a BB gun, a special dollhouse, or one of those expensive dolls another friend had, and you heard one or both parents say, “After you’re older.” As a teenager you still were haunted by needing to wait for things until after your grades came up, after you got a job, or after you got your license. In all these cases, the word after brought with it anticipation and longing for some time ahead.
Your imagination was also impacted by stories that were read to you or later that you read yourself that ended with that wondrous phrase ‘happily ever after.’ Every girl longing for a prince to appear knows that one very well.
That hope for a prince to sweep us off our feet often got tucked away inside us and didn’t die away easily as we looked at outward appearances of those who might look like a prince. They influenced our choices on both sides of a choice so we either became more tentative looking for perfection or had blurry vision that nudged us to make choices and discover later this was not a prince at all and be surprised we missed that fact.
As we got older, we became aware that not all anticipation was positive. Sometimes (perhaps many times) after meant uncertainty. Somehow, we should have recognized that before because we never really know what after will bring our way because it hasn’t happened yet, and we are not in control of it (even if we have a certain amount of influence on it).
We make plans for a special event while knowing that we can’t guarantee that a storm will not upend the party planned for outdoors. We need a medical procedure and after learning all we can about it and listening to what the medical team tells us to expect after it is over, we miss some of what is said. Somehow we filter the most positive outcome because that is what we want or hope, but they cannot guarantee that outcome and when we have more pain, recovery takes longer, or creates yet another issue, we see the fickle nature of after.
The most adventurous of us long for certainty and one thing we cannot miss is that life is filled with uncertainty (even in areas where we think we have control). We recognize that more as we age but that doesn’t make it any easier. Dreams we had don’t work out quite the way we hoped whether in our relationships, our jobs, or our health. Curve balls keep coming. And we are more likely to recognize we have been looking forward a long time without realizing how much more time now is behind us than ahead of us.
Those curious thoughts about what’s out there beyond this planet and all we know of living when we gazed at the stars from our backyards as we were growing up begin to take on a more serious set of reflections if they haven’t occurred previously. What happens when these bodies wear out and our lives come to an end. Is it really an end for us or is there something else we discover? Some of us have settled that when we were younger. We were taught or heard there was life after the one we were living and what we did or were on our way there mattered. Of course, there were other opinions, but moving further into adulthood means we need to navigate what we believe and what our hope is based on. Do we believe and accept none of this universe was by accident? Do we see ourselves as part of something bigger, a larger story than just our own that we have been adding to each day?
Life keeps us distracted by more than a few things and if we are fortunate, someone or something lets us in on how many minutes we can waste looking at others for our identity, comparing what we have to them, looking at the small stuff and never taking time to check out the interior world of our heart which is where real life matters most.
“In the end, we’re all looking through a keyhole at eternity as we try to figure out our lives today. Don’t be distracted by how different you are from everyone else. Our hearts were meant to beat together, not the same.
If you want to dazzle heaven, stop being distracted being everyone else. Go be you.”Bob Goff
Yes, we are puzzling now about many things. The Apostle Paul gives an observation about that:
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”I Corinthians 12:13 (NIV)
If we are honest, his words are truer than we take time to consider. Many things are blurry. If you accept and believe in a spiritual world, then you know that we are living in two worlds now – the one we can see and the one that is unseen. What we know about the unseen world leaves more blank spaces than we wish, but if we believe in the One who is the creator of both worlds then we can get glimpses of it in the last will and testament He left for us – the Bible. He gives us peeks into what it looks like in the unseen world, in eternity. For us who are limited by what we can see, hear, touch, and taste, that requires faith.
And you see, that makes all the difference. Our creator points to what is still being created now that Jesus talks about after He rises from the dead before ascending into heaven. He gives those early disciples and us a promise on which to place our faith and hope.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”John 14:3 (NIV)
No, we don’t know what all that looks like except for the word pictures Jesus left us, but one thing that has evidence beyond the Bible and shows up in historical record of the time He spent on earth – his promises are true.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
If we believe in Him, we can look at the after differently because we know He is waiting on us, planning for us, and that eternity is as real as any part of this physical world (even if you can’t see it right now).
“If you think of your life as a book that’s being written, start taking better notes. It will become a masterpiece one sentence at a time.”Bob Goff