Always and Forever

For what doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? For what should a man give in exchange for his life?
(Mark 8:36-37)

close up photo of a hand holding three white kittens

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and prolong his days, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, that fear before him:” (Ecclesiastes 8:11-12)

I enjoy watching videos on healthy eating, healthy living and all-around wellbeing, or being well. Oddly enough, I’ve noticed the trend in the last twenty years that more people are becoming exceedingly invested in doing healthy things.

Indeed we’ve thrown out the cigarettes as bad for us and we work at diets, sometimes several diets, always looking for something perfect. Something perfect that will give us the perfect—the perfect look, the perfect feel, the perfect body, we may not know exactly what the perfect thing is we’re looking for but we know it’s perfect.

But we don’t live in a perfect world. We did at one time, but all that we have left of that world are the words “In the beginning God… and God saw it was good.” We can see hints, small reminders scattered here and there like jewels or beautiful roses guarded by thorns.

Calendars often use the most beautiful pictures of our present world. Pictures of sunrises and sunsets, of mountains, oceans, seas, houses or the list goes on of the beauties of this world used to decorate our walls and show us the passage of time.

As I’ve pointed out in numerous examples, time can change quickly making that which we believe will always be into something that once was. A few years back I had Old Fuzzy take some pictures of our local fat squirrel out in our grove of trees.

Squirrely wasn’t real worried about getting his picture taken. Since our faithful pooch passed on, Squirrely would frisk around at his own leisure, in the grass looking for the walnuts he had planted last fall.

That’s the way that went until one year Miss Kitty decided there wasn’t any cat competition here and she made her home under one of our outside buildings. And she had a litter of kittens. That litter didn’t survive, but she got an upgrade with a bit of kitty feed and some homegrown fresh milk.

One or two of the next litter of her kittens survived, and so it went. Some kittens survived here and there, and our stray cat population blossomed. Our Squirrely had to be careful, no longer could he (or she) spend leisurely moments hopping through the yard.

At one point we had fourteen big healthy stray cats hopefully catching mice, eating kitty feed, drinking milk and even on occasion following Old Fuzzy— the cat whisperer—around. Old Fuzzy made a live trap and began feeding the cats in the trap with the door open, and you can see what the goal was.

The first catch was only three cats. They became rehomed to a nice big barn at a neighbor’s farmstead. The next haul was nine cats to be rehomed as well. Today, as best as we can tell we have one Tom cat left and maybe one other kitty, but they are still strays who like to come up to eat, then they are off to wander.

And Squirrely? He is back to his ways of leisure, but he’s got an air of joie de vivre—joy of life—about him these days. The day he discovered there wasn’t a herd of cats stalking him he was doing cartwheels in the lawn.

One of the big differences between humans and animals is that we humans look into the future. We make plans, sometimes only transitory plans, and sometimes we think in terms of years.

Squirrely is thankful for his reprieve and maybe it will be long or short. However, we didn’t have plans to populate our farm with a large number of cats in the first place. So we can make all sorts of plans but only God knows what is in store.

And life always moves on… until it doesn’t and then it moves into forever. Forever is what comes after life on this earth. We also call it “eternity”. Which is more important than what we have here, but we become wrapped up in our todays here and too often don’t prepare for the forever or eternity.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

I know of people who look around at the beauties and wonders of this world and get wrapped up in believing that this is all there is. Or on the other hand, people get tied in knots because of the trials and sorrows that beset them.

The uncertainties of this life should remind us that this isn’t our permanent home and we have the promise of something much better. There isn’t an always on this earth, but there is a forever.

Always with a qualifier, like “I’ll always love you, until… the oceans run dry, or the sun no longer shines or… because life happens and we don’t have an all-seeing vision. Likewise, forever needs preparation as someone has said: “People tell you, life is short, you need to enjoy it. I tell you, eternity is long, you need to prepare for it.”

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)