"On the right, Eternity"
May 14, 2008
Driving west on highway 407, a toll road north of Toronto, I was startled to see this advertisement. With a quick swivel, I looked again: sure enough, there it was. Wondering what it was trying to sell, I saw in smaller letters, the name of a cemetery.
Goodness. Those guys sure have the gall to push my nose into what we all know is coming, yet working hard to avoid—death.
Their marketing scheme is meant to shock; to grab our attention. And for those with forethought, or who are getting older, they do just that. I grudgingly admire their boldness in pressing drivers-by to that one undeniable fact. We die.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book on death: What Happens When I Die? I tried the idea on a few friends in their 90s who were committed Christians. I got nowhere. They had no interest in talking about what heaven (or hell) may be like. I also nosed around my preacher-friends, asking how often in the past five years or so they had preached on death, and its possible life-after options. There was hardly a one.
So the question comes to us as leaders: how conscious am I of my mortality? To what degree are the visions I define, the plans I construct, the operations I initiate, and the day-to-day activities I manage, overshadowed by eternity?
In asking you the question, it is obvious that for me it is not very often. Not surprising.
Most of us live with a sense of forever. As much as we may define strategy within time-lines, do I, in my heart-of-hearts, work out its value using a measuring stick that includes eternity?
I don't want us to beat ourselves up over this, but there is value in asking why keeping "eternity" in our sight-line is important for leadership.
"And on the right, eternity" says, remember, you take nothing with you. While I'm generally content with my financial lot, I do, now and then, wonder where I might be if I had done something else other than public ministry.
"And on the right, eternity" consoles me when it seems like I'm spinning my wheels. While others may see this work to be of little worth in today's terms, it may look different when seen through the lens of eternity.
"And on the right, eternity" acts as a rebuke when I get to thinking that what I do is all that matters.
"And on the right, eternity" assures me that each day is not just another one, but a day that matters, a moment of time that eternity will not forget.
Eternal Father, Creator of life and Saviour of death, may I see today's life and calling on the wider horizon of your being and promise. Not as a threat, but a reminder that you, who brought creation into being and us—your image—into life, will see to it that what we do will not be discounted or forgotten. There is an eternity in which all you intended for us in creation will be realized. And so today, in leading, Spirit of God, may the thought of eternity be a reminder of your promise. So that in remembering, I continue to trust in your provisions for this day and give of my best. Amen.
"And on the right, eternity."