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First, Last and Jesus Christ

Setting our eyes on God through every season of life

A father anxiously wrings his hands together as he brings his excited daughter to her brand new dorm at college. The fresh scent of green grass in the summer sun and the noisy excitement of droves of students moving into their new homes fill the echoing dormitory hallways. This is a time of newness, of revelatory experience, a stepping into an entirely foreign time of life for father and daughter. 

Three hundred miles away, an elderly grandfather sits hunched on a creaky hospital bed. The faded, light-blue sheets are balled-up at the foot of the bed. His appearance and immobility convey the sense that the end is near. This same finality is palpably reflected in every word that he struggles to articulate. This, too, is a time of newness, of revelatory experience, of preparing to step into the entirely foreign place of eternal life. 

Life here on Earth often progresses in a cyclical ebb and flow – from one daily experience to the next, the mundanity of daily work, the same bills making a haphazard pile on a corner of the kitchen counter. However, amid the tide of life coming in and receding, there are other moments in our lives that clearly stand alone. They are moments of newness and moments of finality. Glimpses of new life and of the end of life are such tangible moments of revelation because they turn our stubborn eyes away from ourselves, forcing us to look toward the cross of Jesus Christ.  

Counter-cultural calling
It may seem a bit of a jump from hospital rooms and dormitory walls to Jesus, but let me explain. In a world that is increasingly individualized, one in which social, intellectual and even sexual fulfillment can be found in the electric devices that fit in our pockets, what need do we have to look away from ourselves? We are the centre of our own worlds, the masters of our own fate. We could pray; we could delve into Scripture to look for answers or support, but more often we look to our own human capabilities to solve the issues at hand. We become self-sovereign. We rely on the work of our hands, the words of our lips, the skills on our resumes to succeed and grasp for happiness. We do all of this because our new cars, our remodeled kitchens and even our new pairs of shoes call out to us in a louder, more attractive way than the countercultural life and calling of Jesus.

Imagine that father as he drives away after dropping his daughter off at her new home. Worries and anxieties over what could happen to her without his protection and guidance wash over him. What if she doesn’t make friends? What if she doesn’t succeed at school? What if she meets a boy, and elopes? You know, typical fatherly worries. In this space he, much like his daughter, enters into an unknown realm, a place of both newness and finality. One stage of life is receding for him while another is advancing. He can no longer save, protect or be the sovereign force in his daughter’s life. Now he has the opportunity to lean into his Father in Heaven, the sovereign King. His eyes are forced off himself, toward the cross. 

It’s the same for the elderly grandfather on a hospital bed, his body failing to function in the ways it always has. He knows that the end is coming, and the overwhelming feeling of finality washes over him. In this same moment of weakness, he turns his eyes not on his achievements, but to the grace and power of God. For each word that he uses to talk about his final breaths, he knows that what awaits him is not death, but life. As he enters into this place of finality, it’s not in fear for the loss of his own self-sovereignty but in hope of the newness into which he is about to enter. A newness of eternal proportions. 

A sovereign Saviour
Jesus Christ, the Son of a sovereign and gracious God, came into the world as a new child. Born in lowly place, he experienced these same ebbs and flows of life. From new relationships to new ministries to the final days of his life on the splintered cross. He too experienced ever-changing, unpredictable life, but he did not do so with his eyes set on himself. He set his eyes unwaveringly on the Father (John 5:19) while walking the earth as a human. It is inevitable; we will experience the painful cycles of life. The ups and downs, the mundane and the overwhelming. But in every season, let us turn our eyes to the cross and lean into Christ Jesus rather than ourselves, in order that we might experience life’s firsts and lasts in the strength and hope of our sovereign Saviour, rather than our sovereign-selves.  

Author

  • Zack is a Christian Reformed Pastor and Chaplain at Brock University, in St. Catharines, Ont., where he lives with his wonderful wife Malorie.

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