Can you recall the first time you … ate pizza in a restaurant? Went to a professional baseball game? Laid eyes on the one who would become our spouse? Held your child? Went to the emergency room?
Do you have a recollection of your first … day of School? Car? Date?
Add up all the “firsts” in your life; plot them along a timeline of your life. Where do you find the greatest concentration of “firsts”? It’s probably in the first portion of the timeline.
Here are a couple of lines from Scripture. Tell me on which end of the timeline of life do you think the author was when he wrote this.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new?’ It has been already in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
If you guessed him to be an older man, I’d say you are correct.
When we are young our orientation to life is generally future oriented. We are facing forward. We imagine and anticipate great things.
As we age our orientation to life becomes more and more oriented to the past. We are facing backward. Anticipation has been replaced by experiences and the memories that go with them. We no longer engage life according to the possibilities, but more and more interpret it through our experiences.
But here’s my question: Does it have to be this way?
I don’t think so. Hold the aging Solomon’s cynicism with life against the hopeful view of the future that gripped the aged Apostle John. To him God said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:3).
Note, He does not say, “I will make all things new.” Nor does He say “I will have made all things new.” Nor yet, “I made all things new.” It is, to be technical about it, a present tense verb. That might simply mean that at the moment of speaking it God would be in the midst of making all things new. But there is also the legitimate possibility that this is descriptive of what God might ever and always say and do in the eternal future of what we call “heaven.” Forever—for all eternity—God will continuously be making all things new.
Is not this what God is doing in this very moment in time (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16-18)? So what’s to say that heaven won’t be made up of a continuous, ongoing renewal … so that everything, each time will be always be a “first” time?
We concluded that most of the “firsts” of life are front-loaded on our timelines. But maybe that isn’t accurate. And maybe it isn’t how we are supposed to live life. Answer this: How many times have you lived this specific minute on this specific day? Only once! You may be doing it in a place you’ve been many times; surrounded by people you’ve known all your life. But you’ve never before lived this day in this place with these people in this specific set of circumstances. This is the first time you’ve ever lived this day, this moment! You’re in the midst of a “first time”!
I leave you with three challenges that I hope will aid you in learning to live all of life’s “firsts” with imagination and anticipation. I think they bring the fabric of heaven down to earth:
- Live on purpose. It is easy to misplace your purpose in the clutter of life. That’s good soil for cynicism. Rediscover that purpose and see the present moment and the people present in your life through that divinely-given purpose.
- Live in the moment. After all it’s the only moment you are guaranteed. It would be shame to waste it! Engage the present people and circumstances as a gift from God.
- Live for the line, not the dot. That is what steps #1 and #2 achieve in our lives. We live fully in the moment (the dot; now), but for the line (eternity). And that makes every moment “new,” every encounter a “first time.”