When Last Seen…
I like weddings, inaugurations, graduations, New Year’s Days, births and baptisms. What do these all have in common? They speak of beginnings, don’t they? They are filled with hope, excitement, dreams, good intentions, promises and the like. Our spirits are renewed and lifted by such beginnings. The optimism that often accompanies these kind of events fills us with a breath of fresh air. They cause us to think well and responsibly about the future. They invigorate us. They help those of us who made our own pledges years ago to redouble our efforts.
But as much as I am blessed by a new beginning, I’m finding that I am even more encouraged by a good finish. I love starters, but I stand in admiration of those who finish well. Starters mean well, but finishers have lived well. Starters intend to live by their vows and pay the costs of any honorable commitment, but finishers have lived by their vows over the long haul and have paid the costs involved, even the unseen and unexpected and very costly costs. And this not only honors the people for whom they have such committed love, it also honors the God they serve.
In a beginning, even the most thoughtful among us are unable to fully comprehend the responsibilities attached to the commitment we are making. But in a good finish all those responsibilities have been embraced and carried out, if not without flaw, at least without quitting. I still love the honor that was paid to mountain climbers who lost their lives in an attempt to climb Mt. Everest years ago. It was said of them that when they were last seen they were climbing higher. To me there is something heroic in a marriage that remains strong after years of facing challenges together…challenges from which the uncommitted run away. I am inspired by the woman who stays at her post of duty in spite of weariness or fear or, even, illness. And I just love the old-timer who with a twinkle in his eye lets you know that even through the struggles of older age, life is worth taking on with a sense of wonder and optimism that won’t let go. But of all the illustrations of this, the one that inspires me most is the elderly Christian whose love for Jesus is stronger than ever, whose hope shines brighter than before and whose determination to honor Christ is undeterred by the ravages of time. When Moses was last seen, he was climber higher into the very presence and joys of his God. When the Apostle Paul was last seen, as recorded in the last letter we have of his, listen to what he had to say, “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).” This confidence is not only for the faithful aged, but for the faithful of all ages. When the repentant, dying thief, who hung on a cross next to Jesus, was last seen, guess what? He was climbing higher, even unto Paradise with his Lord. When faithful Stephen was last seen under a barrage of stones because of his faithful testimony to Christ, he was climbing higher. This is the kind of climbing we never get too old to do. What will be our condition when our beloved behold us for the last time on earth? Will we still be headed home?