As a young boy I spent a great deal of time in the woods of New England. I loved exploring. I also enjoyed tracking animals. When I was lucky enough to find several deer with their young, I would sit quietly and observe them. During these youthful explorations I’d sometimes come across old properties. It amazed me how much work had been put into them, and that by the time I happened upon them they were in ruins.
I had a similar feeling during one of my times in Afghanistan. Myself and a few others heard of some ancient ruins in a dangerous area. Foolishly, those of us with an interest in history took a short ride from where we had been staying to look upon them. I share in topic 03.01.02 (Setup Recognition) of the Panoplia.org Soft Skills and Tactics (SST) course how this almost ended badly. And yet, as I looked over the ruins, I was again amazed at all the effort that had been expended to build glorious things over a thousand years ago that now sit broken and half buried in the sand.
Scenes like these and the one pictured in the image above can have great value as we contemplate our lives. They give rise to a very important question. That is, “What will last after you’re gone from this earth that resulted from you being here?”
Many of us have dreams of building a cabin in the woods. I know I do. I often think about how nice it would be to live in the deep woods rather than in the suburbs. The privacy, the fresh air, the smell of pine trees, and the thought of a stream running through my property are among the things of my dreams. Perhaps you can relate. The image below is more elegant than I have in mind, yet I suppose it would do.
As I approach 60 years of age, I sometimes catch myself thinking, “It’s too late. I don’t now nor will I ever likely have enough time or money to build a small cabin in the woods.” When such thoughts come, I’m reminded of Matthew 6:19-21. In the NIV this verse says:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When I think about this, I’m reminded of the ruins I’ve seen in my life and travels. At some point wealthy and powerful men and women invested their lives in building homes, cities, and various other structures that are now broken and decaying remnants of what they once were. I then think about what it would be like for me to plan and labor to build a cabin in the woods, and that years from now some young boy would likely come across its rotting foundation and standing chimney and wonder who once lived there.
As I pray about these things, I sense the Lord leading me to invest my life into things that will outlast me. I’m reminded that very few things are actually eternal. Among them are the souls of men, women, girls, and boys. Every individual ever created will spend eternity either in the Lord’s presence, or separated from God forever. What could be more worth investing in while on earth than doing what we can to gently and with love share the truth of the gospel? What can have a greater impact for eternity?
Every time I meet a person I have an opportunity to represent the Lord. We all do. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are to start explaining the gospel to everyone we meet. And yet, we always have the opportunity to live out what’s known as the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) describes these as the following:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
If we live our lives among others with these attributes there’s little doubt that we will have an impact. We may even be given the opportunity to explain the reason we have such joy and peace to those who may ask.
I sometimes go to bed an hour or so earlier than normal. At such times I like to lie there in the dark and think about life. I’d encourage you to try this if you don’t already do so. It’s in those dark and quiet times, with few distractions, that we can ask ourselves questions like, “How will I invest my life, and when I approach the end, what will I wish I had done differently?”
The great news is that for many of us we still have ample opportunity to make changes. We still have time to make an impact for eternity in the lives of those around us as we’re given the opportunity to do so. There’s no question that if we sincerely seek such opportunities the Lord will lead and direct us in our efforts to love and serve others in this way.
During those quiet moments in the dark I still often dream about a cabin in the woods. As I do so, I sense in my heart the Lord saying, “The serenity offered by the most beautiful cabin in the deepest woods cannot compare with what awaits you and everyone else who will live in my presence in heaven.” I’m then reminded that heaven will be a million times more wonderful than anything I can now imagine. What’s more, the very few years I could enjoy a cabin on earth are absolutely nothing in light of the endless time we will share with the Lord in eternity. Who knows, maybe heaven will have deep woods, and maybe the small place the Lord has prepared for me in heaven is a cabin.
Some people are fortunate enough to live out their dreams on earth. That’s wonderful. And yet whether or not we are able to do so, let’s commit to investing our lives in things that will last for eternity.