The tree is slowly dying. Many dry branches can be broken off easily, and the three largest ones, growing up from the splitting trunk, are bound together by a loop of steel cable.
And yet, again this spring the tree bore new blossoms on young branches. It will not give
up and die, and it is a reminder that life is very, very persistent.
Life is a gift of the Great Creator that is meant to be eternal.
We follow as our granddaughter scuffs through the litter of tiny “helicopters” on the sidewalk, seeds that spiraled down from the tree above. They are scattered over the nearby grass. Most of them will become debris to be washed down the gutters into the storm drains. But some will become new trees.
We delight in watching Kate learn of this world and grow through new experiences. Chances are that in 20 years or so when she is bringing new life to this earth, we may not be around. Yet through her and others, life we have brought to this earth will go on.
But that is not what I mean when I say that life is eternal.
I was well past the middle of middle age before I witnessed death firsthand. I often wondered what makes that instantaneous difference. Apart from accidents or violence, what makes a person alive one moment and dead the next?
I know the answer. Death occurs when the immortal spirit leaves the mortal body. Each of us is a spirit—the spirit offspring of God—inhabiting a body of flesh and blood He has given us through normal biological processes He established. Death, too, is a normal process that He established, but it does not touch the Spirit. What we are—the personality, the knowledge, the intellectual and spiritual achievement that is within each living soul—does not disappear when the mortal body ceases to function. Those things go on with the eternal spirit. We do not cease to exist, but we cease to function in this mortal sphere that we see with our natural eyes, the tissue in our body created to house our sense of vision.
There will be a resurrection, when this spirit lives again in a body of flesh and bone. That, too, will be a natural process—one that He has established, one that will occur on His timetable. When it happens, we will again be able to use a body, this time immortal, to function according to the knowledge, experience, and wisdom we gained during our mortal years. Those men and women who gained more knowledge and wisdom here, more ability to love and serve others, will be better prepared to function effectively in the eternal hereafter.
That is part of what I believe the mortal Jesus Christ meant when He preached in the Sermon on the Mount: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). When He comes again, those who laid up treasures of faith, wisdom, and the power to love while they lived in mortal life will be better prepared to serve Him in His kingdom throughout eternity.
Every living thing persists in clinging to life, from the dry tree that still sends out blossoms every spring to the unborn baby in the womb that resists when it is attacked. That, I believe, is the will of God.
But for a flawed creature like me, clinging to life is not simply an effort to put off inevitable death. Knowing my weaknesses and the many times in this life that I have lived below my potential—oh, how I need His saving grace!—I welcome every opportunity to learn a little more about loving, a little more about serving others, a little more about what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow me” (see John 12:26).