As a young girl, a common pastime was riding my bike several days a week to a friend who lived a few miles from my home. Though her neighborhood was comprised of modest houses and manicured lawns, regionally we resided in a fairly urban community. A few small functioning farms were still part of the landscape, along with wooded stretches of undeveloped land. We explored them all without fear, for it was a time of unlocked houses and unbound adventures ~ affording children the gift of wonder.
Along the route between our homes, an abandoned house stood in the middle of a large wooded lot. There was an eerie, yet intriguing, presence about that old structure. Month after month, we passed by as it grew increasingly wild, until one day our curiosity got the better of us. My friend and I guided our bikes down the long gravel path and mustered enough courage to venture in. The house was neither boarded, nor the doors locked, so we deemed it an invitation.
Despite being a sunny day, the dense trees cast shadows that added tension as we approached the entrance. With one hand on the knob and one hand clasping my friend, we stood close and slowly opened the door. The hinges groaned and our heartbeats quickened as we stepped through that portal into another time.
It was apparent we weren’t the first ones to come through that doorway, yet to our surprise, the house was remarkably intact. No windows had been broken and no graffiti was on the walls. A parlor greeted us with a fireplace and a glimpse of the adjoining rooms. A few pieces of furniture conveyed a bygone era and a dusty kitchen table stood with chairs still around it. Fragments of broken ceramics crunched beneath our feet – compliments of less respectful visitors who had rummaged through cabinets for hidden treasure.
A small bathroom was just off the kitchen. Plain and functional it sat next to the room that captured my complete attention – the bedroom. It was the only one in the house. Dusty and dotted with cobwebs, it seemed frozen in time. An armoire stood in the corner with a few long, dark dresses still hanging inside. A table supported a hurricane lamp with a faded doily beneath it and a small photo album of brown and white images of people dear to the one who once lived there. I studied their faces and wondered about their lives. But what caught my attention most was the iron bed in the center of the room; for upon it a long black dress was draped across the bedspread. Black button shoes sat on the floor beneath the hem of the dress, filling my senses with an impression that an old woman would return at any moment to don the apparel.
I stood there spellbound, for the room conveyed a profound truth to my young eyes. It was apparent that something had been planned, but never realized. By all appearances, the woman who laid out her clothing had unexpectedly been called to step through another portal that is the destiny of us all. I couldn’t express it then, but somehow I knew I was witnessing something important.
We left our venture wide-eyed and full of chatter at the ghost-like conditions, delighting in our brave exploration. But, secretly, I left with that vision tucked away in my heart. The passing of time would give it meaning.
Life is full of unexpected events. Some are joyous, some sorrowful. Some test our character and challenge our thinking. Some even change the course of our lives. One decides our eternity. Perhaps that is why Scripture reminds us that we are sojourners here and while it’s important to plan our days, it is imperative to prepare for eternity.
Psalm 90 says it like this. “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Earthly life is temporal and, at its end, we stand before our Maker. Some take offense at the thought that God would display anger. After all isn’t God love? They claim that fear is manipulative and wrath is a tool of submission. But that flawed response is nothing more than a revelation that they have assigned human character to Divine righteousness. The two are very different. The righteousness of man is tainted by sin. The righteousness of God is just and holy. Scripture does not appease humanity by skirting truth because God’s underlying purpose is to save us from deserved wrath evident by our mortality. Jesus took that on Himself at the cross, conquering death and liberating believers from it’s overshadowing fear. That truth embodies what it means to gain a heart of wisdom.
There is an appointed time for each of us when we will leave the things of this earth behind and “fly away”. Passing through that portal, we will be ushered into one of two realities: Holy wrath or Divine forgiveness. It will be a reckoning born of earthly choice. We will either enter the portal alone or clasping the hand of the One we chose to walk with. If Christ is the choice now, whatever is left behind will pale in comparison to the eternal glory that awaits His own.
It’s entirely possible that one day generations to follow will look upon our mortal possessions and feel they are looking at ghostly images. What message will be conveyed? To those who have gained hearts of wisdom, there could be no greater legacy than evidence of the Savior.