Who we really are in the eyes of God.
by John Alexanderson
Old photographs of faces cloaked in somber dress, high collars, and stiff poses can estrange our modern eyes. When viewed closely, however, they usually reveal folks who look startlingly contemporary. I love to imagine myself next to the person or group in the photograph, soaking up the spirit of their time-shadowed era as the mustached photographer flash-clacks our portrait.
In our living room a time-scarred frame holds such an image: a Union Civil War soldier who was a relative of my wife, Diane. Posturing in a crisp, new uniform and cradling a long rifle in eager inexperience, he seems like any late-adolescent of today. I enjoy scrutinizing the picture while wondering if a father, mother, or fiancée reverenced the same photo, fearing for his safe return.
What was that young recruit like? Was he wounded, or did he even survive the war? If he did, what did he do for the rest of his life? Was he a cherished husband and father? Was he successful in business? Was he witty, warm, or wary of others?
Diane knows little about him. Over 150 years have reduced his beyond-recollection life to a mere curiosity.
A `lump of coal’
Isn’t that like all men and women? The world’s scratching out of significance takes longer for some than for others, but ultimately, our temporal lives cause barely a ripple of reminiscence. Like Diane’s relative, all men and women are finally reduced to faded and forgotten photographs.
I suppose earthly lives contribute to humankind’s general furtherance, but that affords no individual importance. The world’s mighty steam engine of progress uses us like individual lumps of coal, each being reduced to ashes once it has given its burning heat to the engine’s momentum. The world, like the engine, lumbers on by dumbly devouring its own resources.
What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever (Ecclesiastes 1:3, 4, NKJV).
That doesn’t make our lives sound like they mean much in the long run, does it? It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus instructed not to lay up treasures for ourselves here on earth, but to lay up treasures in heaven, where nothing can destroy them. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Fortunately, Jesus brings good news: Each person who knows Him is not just another “lump of coal.” That person does have a future — and it is indescribably glorious!
Each person competing in a California state track final had won the race for their region of the state to qualify. During the warm-ups for the 3200-meter run, a spectator noticed that one girl was limping badly because her feet turned inward at an awkward angle.
Supposing she must be a coach or a team manager, the spectator was surprised to see this girl line up with the others at the one-minute bell to prepare for the race. She was not a manager, but one of the contestants.
Here are the words of the spectator as the start gun fired:
I assumed that although she was limping, she would be able to keep up with the rest of the runners. I was wrong. After the first lap she was a quarter of a lap behind, and by the time everybody else had finished, she still had one lap to go all by herself.
As she went down the backstretch I could see the agony in her face. Every step she took was excruciatingly painful, but she would not stop. Without realizing it, all of us in the stands had risen to our feet. We were cheering her on. As she passed by the front of the stands, the noise was overpowering. We were all screaming in unison, “Go! Go! Go!”
When she finally crossed the finish line, the crowd erupted in a lengthy ovation. The race was a long time ago. To this day I have no idea who won the girls’ 3200, but I will never forget the girl who was last.” 
The Bible says we will receive an even greater welcome when Jesus welcomes us to His eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:11).
God says, “I can make last place more significant than first. If you trust Me, you will win an unceasing inheritance that will not be forgotten.”
In Two Cities, Two Loves James Montgomery Boice writes about his family’s annual winter trips to the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania and the welcome they received each time:
It was about a three-hour drive, and we usually arrived at dusk. We would park, open the door, and be greeted by doormen who, in some cases, had been there for twenty or more years. It was their practice to take our suitcases and say, “Welcome home!” Skytop was not our home, of course. The greeting was only a clever device on the part of the lodge to make its guests feel welcome. But one day we are going to glory, where those words will be spoken to us literally by Jesus, who has gone ahead to make home ready for us. “Welcome home!” he will say. And we really will be home. Forever. 
Diane says that her soldier relative was a Christian, as were many of her ancestors. He was not just another chunk of potential energy for the world’s machinery, but had eternal significance with the Lord. Like him, will you receive the gracious “welcome home” that awaits His children?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:3, NIV).
- Michael Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith, pp. 129-130
- James Montgomery Boice, Two Cities, Two Loves, p. 116