Due to our recent move, we are living in a townhouse while the home we bought is being renovated. We are not sure how long our stay here will be, and our focus is on making our ‘forever’ house the way it needs to be. We are passing through a temporary residence to get to our final residence. Sound like a parable?
In her 2011 speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia, Queen Elizabeth quoted an Aboriginal proverb: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love, and then we return home.”
“Passing Through” is a 1948 folk song written by Dick Blakeslee, recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956, and covered live by Leonard Cohen, who continued to play it into the 1980s. It is an exceedingly simple song that discusses Adam, Jesus, George Washington, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln. The closing lines are, “All men must be unconditionally free, or there is no reason to be passing through.” I highly recommend you listen to it; you can find it in my Blog’s Spotify play list.
We are all passing through this life. We have no permanency in this world. We are on a journey towards the last station on our run. Our treasure cannot be reached here. In the end, the rewards of our temporal lives add up to nothing. Our ultimate goal is beyond this life. In a prior blog I mentioned a little-known Jimmy Buffett song called “Souvenirs.” The song’s key line is, “Someone wants a piece of you/Never let ’em pay/What you do not give them/Time takes anyway” meaning that we should be giving freely of ourselves to others while we can. The title of a book by John Ortberg uses a popular game metaphor, “When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box.” Players come and players go. The game board was around a long time before we sat down to play, and it will be here after we’re gone. It all goes back in the box. For every player, the game ends.
“Fair Winds and Following Seas” is a nautical phrase of good luck. The origin of the phrase is unknown. It is often said to have been lifted from a poem, phrase, or literary work, but it is really two quotes originating from different sources that evolved, by usage, into a single phrase. “Fair Winds” is defined as “safe journey; good fortune” while “Following Seas” is defined as “a sea in which the waves move in the general direction of the heading.” It is said as a blessing to a recipient departing on a voyage and is a great description for passing through this life where we chart our path along a following sea guided by God’s hand.
Robert Baden-Powell said, “No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.” This ties in neatly with my most recent blog, Being Replaced, and that our remnants create the foundation for new growth to develop.
It doesn’t matter how rich, how prominent, how powerful we may become. When all is said and done, we will appear before God as sinful, mortal people in need of grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. We can offer nothing of what we have accumulated. All we will have is the legacy of what we have done for God and others. Jesus ends the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) by saying, “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Matthew writes in 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Being rich in what matters to God and storing up treasures in heaven is as simple as the Great Commandments: “Love God and love each other.” Being rich, prominent, powerful, or even Master of the Game Board is not the point. Be rich towards God, be prominent in our faith, and master His game plan. We can make the most of our stay, without mistaking it for our home. After all, we are just passing through.