by Joanie Butman
At a literary luncheon this week, the speaker was asked how she chose the time period for her book. She chuckled and replied it was the only time she knew. She added that you know you’re old when you write about your lifetime and it’s called historical fiction! She’s not much older than me so I could empathize. Age-related milestones seem to be the theme these days. Checking out at the grocers last week I noticed a sign promoting senior discounts and was shocked to realize that I qualify. Even more startling was the application I recently submitted for social security benefits – an official entry into seniority.
62 is the earliest you can apply for social security. The older you apply, the larger your monthly benefit. However, considering my medical history, any actuary would agree with my strategy of claiming it before it’s too late. Use it or lose it is my motto. I’m no doomsdayer, but I am a realist. The likelihood of me becoming an octogenarian is slim. Best to enjoy those hard-earned benefits while I still can.
Nowhere is the use it or lose it strategy more applicable than in spirituality. Contrary to what many believe, you don’t have to wait until you die to begin your eternity with Christ. It starts the moment you choose to put your faith in Him. It’s then that we are born anew into an eternal spiritual life with Christ. It’s never too early or too late to apply.
When Jesus spoke of eternal life, he referred to a life lived in close, personal relationship with the Trinity. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). We don’t have to arrive in Heaven to claim that blessing. It’s meant to be experienced here and now. Heaven may be our destination, but eternal life is about our relation: ‘an abiding fellowship with God’ that we can enjoy long before our earthly bodies depart. John Ortberg poses an interesting question. He asks, “What if salvation isn’t mostly about getting you into heaven, but about getting heaven into you?”* Experiencing the place of Heaven will have to wait, but the Person and peace of Heaven is ours for the taking now.
The funny thing about growing older is that despite my years, internally I stopped aging years ago. I don’t feel old – physically or spiritually. My joints may be a little creaky, but on most days I still feel like a spiritual toddler, taking faltering steps of faith. Those are the days I feel particularly close with Christ because I eagerly cling to His hand for assistance. It’s only when I choose to let go of His grip that I stumble. I wasted too many years as a spiritually rebellious teenager not to realize that childlike faith is exactly what Christ desires. He couldn’t have been clearer in Matthew 18:3: “unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” As with everything in His upside down Kingdom, there is an inverse relationship to spiritual aging and childlike faith. The more I mature in my spiritual life, the more childlike my faith becomes.
While social security benefits are based on past earnings, spiritual security is free – for those in Christ. He did the work necessary to provide us with benefits we could never earn on our own. Believe me, I won’t be taking any exotic trips on the social security stipend I’ve earned, but my adventures with Christ are new every day.
Finally, I attended a funeral Friday for a woman who embodied eternal living. Sue’s relationship with Christ permeated her entire life. She may be at home with the Lord now, but He made His home in her heart decades ago. Their eternal relationship affected all who came in contact with Sue, and her legacy of faith will live in the hearts of those she loved long after the final goodbyes. Sue absolutely ‘used it’ to the very end…will you choose to do the same?