Firsts and Lasts

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It seems to take me longer to understand certain things.  When I was a student in elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college, I was a pretty good student.  I graduated from college with a 3.4 GPA, but I knew I had not given my best to the classes I took. Music was all I could think about; playing music was all I wanted to do, and hanging around the music scene was my highest priority. Had there been a class for those activities, I might have had a 4.0.  

Now, at my stage of life, I seem to know and understand some things I could have never learned in a classroom.  I guess you could say that life is the greatest classroom.

Things in life began to change a bit when I hit the unbelievably old age of 50.  Up to that point, life had been a series of firsts:

  • the first time I started driving
  • the first time I went to college
  • the first time I got a job
  • the first time I got a raise
  • the first time I got married (and the last!)
  • the first time I became a father (and the second, and the third time--all thrilling)
  • the first time I stood at a graveside of a family member
  • the first time our oldest son shot a three-pointer in a basketball game (--there would be many more)
  • the first time our daughter volunteered at children’s hospital cancer center (--a glimpse into her future)
  • the first time our son sat at the piano on the church stage and led worship
  • the first time one of our kids graduated from college (--the other two did as well)
  • the first time I officiated the wedding for one of my kids
  • the first time I became a grandfather (--and the second time)
  • the first time I lost a parent
  • the first time I saw a second chin appearing on my neck…

I guess that’s quite enough.

I find myself at times wondering about the “last time” events that came and went without me knowing it was the last time. For instance:

  • the last time I tucked the kids into bed and said prayers
  • The last time I carried one of the kids to their bedroom--somewhere along the way, they got too big for me to carry to their rooms
  • the last night one of our kids would live at home
  • the last time I talked to my dad
  • the last time I talked to my father-in-law

There will be many more firsts and lasts, some anticipated and some that show up unexpected.

Life teaches you one of its most significant lessons: life is short.  It is unpredictable. There will be highs and lows, good and bad, joy and pain. The only consistent part of life is following Jesus to and through each moment.  

Jesus prepares us for things we don’t see coming. He helps us process the challenges--challenges often brought on by our own foolishness. Jesus reminds us that He is never finished with us, He never gives up on us, He never stops using us for good, and there will never be one last time with Him.  The greatest first we have to look forward to is when Jesus takes our hand and walks us from death to life, from the temporary to the eternal.

When that day comes for me, I will celebrate the fact that this first experience in the journey to heaven will be my last. From that point on, it will not be firsts or lasts, beginnings or endings; it will just be eternity.   

There’s no way we can wrap our human brains around such a concept. But the Bible says it will happen, and I have convincing reasons to believe what it says.  If this whole eternal life thing is real--and I believe it is--there awaits quite a reunion for us with those who’ve gone before us. I know that even to the most committed believer, it sounds hard to believe.  But I’m counting on it.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully...” 1 Corinthians 13:12

So, celebrate the seasons of life. Enjoy the firsts and celebrate the lasts.  The day is coming when we will comprehend the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  

No more seasons.  No more pain. No more tears.  

I’ll see you there.