Do you remember when Lucy had returned to her brothers and sister from Narnia, but no time had passed at all? Time passed so slowly in Narnia in comparison, or barely at all. In a way, I felt like that as I was reading through the Old Testament a second time.
I have read most of the Bible at least once, save the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. They were both so long that they each intimidated me. Actually, I’ve tried to read Isaiah on a couple different occasions, but somehow I didn’t make it all the way through. I have probably read the first 10 chapters three times through already (which could have put me halfway through the book by now). But I will complete it one day though, maybe soon!
Currently, I’m working my way through the Bible again. There are a lot of things I’ve forgotten about and other things I feel like I’d never noticed at all. But it also seems like I’m getting through things much faster and understanding much more.
I’ve made my way through 1 and 2 Kings which are two books in the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that tells of everything before Jesus’s life). 1 and 2 Kings document the reigns of the kings of Israel (and Judah) before they were exiled into Babylon. The first time I read Kings was a couple years ago, and I remember dragging myself through the jumbled letters of archaic Hebrew names and getting lost in the details of their rule. But this time, I understood.
The kings were no longer just a list of rambling names but they became distinct figures whose leadership and decisions grossly affected their subjects and the kingdom’s convictions. This time as I read, the kings’ became personal and their lives and commitments flashed before me and etched my heart as I scoured the pages. I read through six or seven decades in just one chapter or 4 or 5 generations in the span of two days.
I thought of what my life might sound like if it were so condensed—I ate; I slept; I read, heard and worked. I prayed; I sang and I wrote. I felt like so little of our lives is actually doing, a good portion of it is time spent preparing, learning and waiting, or worse—time wasting. God spent so much of eternity imagining, molding and writing the days of our lives, editing them with answers to our prayers as he reaches down to touch us with his mighty hand and perfect pen.
But then our lives pass by so fast within eternity. As quickly as the simple past preterit tense, our actions are done and over. Our lives, our glory, our fame (as we know it) is finished.
Why did so many of those kings spend their energy on fruitless things and futile efforts? Because to be honest, though they lived and ruled, no one really knows their names. We have so little in the grand scheme of things and we work relentlessly toward things that might not even matter tomorrow.
People still know Bach and Beethoven today, and many of us will remember Louie Armstrong and Aretha Franklin for a while. But how much longer will Muddy Water muddy the murky waters of our thoughts? Even one century? Two? What about Frank Sinatra? What about Adele? Will we care about Beyoncé after she has wrinkles or when her double-layered nylons no longer hold together her sagging thighs? What about when old age sets in and we all die of some disease that weakens our liver or attacks our hearts even for athletes like Phelps and Serena Williams. Even this year we’ve lost Arnold Palmer, Prince and Muhammad Ali, and what will they be to the generations after us? What will they be if the republic of the United States crumbled? Just the lost memories of a dead nation? They might not even be names on a page or pictures in a dingy book. Even if they’re digital, their stories still won’t be alive. They will simply flash by.
We all want to be successful, and I relate to that. But in a way, I also disagree. There have been countless days when I have successfully done things, but they didn’t amount to very much for me if I didn’t feel fulfilled. I’d prefer feeling accomplished and useful rather than knowing I’m “successful.”
I flipped through the kings of Israel that became stored in the historical archives of my mind, and I wondered, did it get old? King after king but so few did anything different. So many of them just wanted power, wealth and fame. And what about us? As we strive for comfortability, success, and promotions, are we the same?
God has called me and chosen me complete some task that I can only grasp pieces of right now, but if I can finish even a day able to say “I did it—I completed a piece of the task He asked of me!” then I’d feel accomplished. When considering centuries and millennia in the grand scheme of time, I’d like to stand out. I want to twinkle in the large dark sky of time rather than be a mist in the dark of a cloud.
And for someone who doesn’t understand “the call of God,” it’s a simple thing really. Imagine it’s like an invitation to a store’s grand opening sale. Anyone and everyone is more than welcome to come, but not everyone does. Some people don’t get the chance to even learn about it, because no one told them. Some people hear, then forget. Some people hear STORE but misheard SALE. And then there are others who just don’t come.
Whatever it is, some people miss out. But we all are invited. No two prophets are the same in the Bible. No two patriarchs tell the same story. No two women lead the same life. You have an important purpose in God’s book, but will you do what fulfills you? Or will you get lost in this generations’ mist of what we call “success”?
When I’d finished Kings, I considered the rulers that had made the biggest difference, but there was no other one like King David, not before him and not after. And now, thousands of years after he has reigned and died, his name is still widely heard throughout nations. It has been in the top 20 baby names for decades in the U.S. and is used for children around the world. But the most interesting thing about his fame is not its undying nature. It’s that his greatest desire hadn’t been fame or success. Through years of being on the run from King Saul, and then 40 years as king, David desired, above all else, nothing more than God’s Own Heart.