9.30.2010

The Expanding Universe

Things that expand: elastic, people's waistlines, the national debt.

And the universe. The universe is always expanding. Moving outward. Getting bigger. Pushing away.

Your universe is expanding, too.

One result of getting older is that the number of people you know...or have ever known...keeps expanding. My little son can probably count all his friends on both hands. And maybe a few toes. But pretty soon, fingers and toes won't be sufficient to keep track of his universe.

Every year that you're on planet earth, new people cross your path and enter your life. It's one giant addition problem. Or multiplication, if you consider that "six degrees of separation" theory that people talk about...which has something to do with Kevin Bacon. Or maybe I am getting my theories mixed up.

The little green aliens in Toy Story might say it this way: "Your universe is expanding! We are eternally grateful!" (Love those guys.)

We lose touch with people in our universe, too. Sometimes, (since we're talking space here), people just fall of the face of the earth, although less of that type of thing goes on these days in the facebook era. But even if a friend has been absent from your universe for decades, that doesn't mean they are not a part of your life. They're actually still there. Occupying a part of your history. A part of the story that you both shared together. Their face might not be right there in front of you, but it's clear enough in your mind.

When I was a Brownie back in the day, we used to sing a song that went, "Make new friends, and keep the old...one is silver and the other gold." I sometimes reflect on the salt-of-the-earth people whose universes have intersected with ours over the course of our married life in ministry thus far. So many faces that I don't see anymore, because of time, or distance, or sadly, in some cases, death. There are faces in the present, too. And I know there will be faces in the future who I have not yet met...all composing what the book of Hebrews calls the "cloud of witnesses." And those aren't people in the clouds. It's the crowd of saints who have gone on before, and the crowd that still remains. People in your life who are witnesses to the life of faith. Who root for you to finish well.

Thinking about the faces I love makes me feel rich. Not in dollars. But in a very different kind of richness that surpasses dollars in terms of eternal value. That must be why the old Brownie song referred to friends as silver and gold. You make them. You keep them. They are a treasure to you. It's also why, to this day, people still get lumpy-throated and pull out their cell phone lighters when Michael W. Smith sings, "Friends and friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them."

So no matter your age, there is no need to wish to rewind the clock back to the times when your universe was smaller. "Don't long for the good old days - this is not wise," King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 7:10. Every day that you live, your world is expanding as you influence lives and they influence yours. And in that way, the stands are filling up, person by person in that cloud of witnesses. By the time we get to the finish line where Jesus awaits one day and all eyes are on Him, it'll be a sold-out crowd.

We can still hope that the national debt would shrink and our waistlines would get smaller. But not so for my universe and yours. To infinity and beyond, my friends.

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