(Okay, so technically “airship” is a blimp, not a plane, but I was on a roll with the “-ships” and couldn’t help myself.)
A couple of weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to a very dear friend of mine. I am not a big fan of change in general. I am an especially not-big-fan of change when it means shipping my friend and roommate of almost five years to the other side of the planet — literally — with no clear idea of when I get to see her again.
Of course, this was a day we had anticipated for a long time. International migration is not exactly something that happens on the spur of the moment. For years, it was that unpleasant necessity that loomed on the horizon — an unpleasant necessity I preferred to mostly not think about. However, in the last months, when the countdown to my friend’s departure was much more urgent, I found myself thinking about it a lot. I only had close access to this person for a short time. How could I maximize the time and connection we had together before it was time to say goodbye?
The last week or two was as crazy as one might expect right before an international move. No thanks to my beloved country’s beaurocracy, the craziness was actually ramped up far more than it needed to be (but that’s another story entirely). The days flew by far too quickly, and before I knew it, I found myself sitting in the airport, about to say goodbye for the last time in what could be a very long time.
Later that morning, as I was sitting in my room (in the house my roommate no longer lived in), I was a proper mess of Kleenex and emotions. The reality of the situation was setting in, and I didn’t like it. As I thought over the past few weeks and days, one thought kept haunting me — and it wasn’t what I would have expected.
I wasn’t concerned with how the goodbye party had gone. I wasn’t grieving about our fun hangout time that never happened because of the drama of the beaurocratic red tape. I didn’t regret conversations that we had, or didn’t have. I wasn’t cursing the expiration of her visa. I wasn’t mourning about things we wouldn’t get to do. I wasn’t trying to figure out how long it would be until I could see her again.
The thought that kept surfacing amidst the grief was: Was I a good friend?
In those last months, when so much was going on and the load was so heavy, was I the kind of friend who actually served and blessed her? Was I there for her like I could have (and should have) been? Though the technology exists to stay in touch, and though we will continue being friends, there is a unique way I could be a friend to her in our time shared in the same house. Did I make the most of that opportunity?
My point in writing this post is not to try and answer that question. Neither am I simply airing my emotions to the random void of the internet. The reason I’m writing about it at all is because that morning — and over the next few days as I grappled with this life change — I began to feel this same question weighing upon my heart towards a somewhat different end.
I was really struck by how this life, on this side of eternity, is incredibly brief. For real. I don’t care how slowly it feels like time is moving; all we have to do is compare it to the millions and millions of unending years we will live in the age to come, and suddenly my little lifetime feels pretty puny. It’s no wonder the biblical authors favored terms such as “vapor”, “grass”, and “a passing shadow” to describe even the longest, fullest-lived life on this side.
Whether my life in this age ends by me leaving my body to go be with Christ (2Cor 5:8), or by finding my body transformed as I meet Him when He comes back to the earth to dwell with me forever (1Thes 4:17; 1Cor 15:51-52; Rev 21:3), my natural life is on a timetable. My days are numbered and recorded in God’s book already (Psalm 139:16). My life in this age will end. It’s a fact. It’s that event on the distant horizon that I know is coming, but I don’t generally think about too much.
When my perspective gets adjusted, though, I realize that day is not so distant after all — even if it doesn’t come for another hundred years.
I like how Mike Bickle often refers to this life as a “seventy-year internship”. It’s a short-term time of training where we learn to love God and serve Him in humility. The conditions of our internship, with all its blessings, challenges, and limitations, set us up to learn to love our Lord and live for Him as no other preparation could. It’s His sheer grace and mercy towards us that sets us in this place. It’s His wisdom to lead us in this way. It’s His kindness to give us each new day as another opportunity to choose love, humility, and righteousness, giving us chance after chance to be great in His Kingdom forever.
But when it is all said and done, the question is going to be much the same: Was I a good friend to Jesus? In this age, when so many people blaspheme and curse His name, was I a steadfast voice of genuine adoration and worship? In this age, when so many people try to cast off His cords, did I love His ways and delight in His Word? In this age, when so many people neither have time nor interest in Him, did I take the time to tarry with Him for a while — to sit at His feet and hear His heart? In this life, when I have the option to choose, did I give Him my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength in extravagant love? Did I minister to His heart? Did I let Him minister to mine?
I don’t want to wait until the last day to ask that question. I want to ask now, and ask daily, how I can be a good friend to the One who is closer than a brother to me. I want to ask now, and ask daily, how I can lay down my life for the One who gave it all up for me.
Though I will be with Him for all eternity, there are some things I can only give Him in this seventy-year internship. I don’t want to waste a single day of it on lesser pursuits. I want to be consumed and in constant pursuit of being a friend of God.