What difference can a puff of smoke make?

I got to spend some time with one of my closest friends yesterday. We’re both busy, so we don’t often get to actually sit down and just talk. So it was really nice, encouraging, refreshing. And in the course of our conversation, we discussed that we had known each other for seven years. Seven years!! That doesn’t seem possible. Because I would swear it was just yesterday we were on the OSU campus watching the Third Day/David Crowder Band contest and meeting for the first time.

And that got me think about how many other milestones have come and gone this year. My family moved to Wichita in July 1991; that was 22 years ago. We moved to the farm over Labor Day 1994; that was 19 years ago. We performed our first Judgement house in 2000; that was 13 years ago. The silly little kids I taught in Bible class on Wednesday nights are married now. The crazy teenagers from my drama team are married and some have children now. My fellow survivors from the class of 2001 have established families and careers around the US and even the world.

The list can go on and on, but the question is always the same. Where have all the years gone? How can time be moving so rapidly?

A mullberry tree and the yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A mulberry tree and the yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is James 4:14.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

I’ve always tried to appreciate the things I have when I have them, and I’ve always tried to be mindful of time. Growing up, everyone always told me how fast time goes, and I thought I’d done a pretty good job of it. I tried to make the most of every second. I didn’t waste time yearning and wishing to be older but did the best I could at the age I was.

But I don’t think you really appreciate how fast life flies until you’ve lived enough to look back on it. You can understand and believe that life goes fast when you’re 10 or 11, but you can’t really grasp how rapidly time can slip through your fingers until you’re 20 or 30 and you watch the children you knew as infants stepping up in leadership roles.

Our lives are nothing in the grand scale of eternity. They’re less than nothing. This translation compares our lives to morning fog, but I’m not sure if it’s really the clearest way to describe them. The Amplified Version says they’re “a puff of smoke.” Fog tends to hang around a little while, but smoke? Not so much. It’s here a moment and then it’s gone. What do we have? 80 years? 90 years? Maybe more. If you think about how many years have passed since the beginning of time (10,000 at the most), 80 or 90 years is nothing. But even 10,000 years fades in comparison to eternity. Eternity is timeless. You can’t even compare it.

I’ll be 31 this year. That blows me away. I have a hard time even writing it down because I remember thinking that 30 sounded old. But I can tell you that 30 years have gone by quicker than a camera flash.

So with our brief lives as small and insignificant as they are, what’s the point? So we make it to 100, so what? What difference does it make in comparison to eternity, or even in comparison to the 10,000 years of history that have already passed? Does it even matter?

I think deep inside all of us want to matter. We want to know that we’ve left a legacy, that when our time is done, people will still be touched. I’m pretty sure that’s too tall an order for any human being. But that’s one of many things that’s awesome about following God. God cares about small, insignificant things like me. Our lives, brief as they are, matter to Him. And the beauty of it all is that a life lived for Him, no matter if it’s 20 years or 30 years or 80 years or more, isn’t insignificant. God is a God who takes what is insignificant and uses it to do great big things–like helping other people generations and generations after our time is gone. That’s not something you can accomplish on your own.

So don’t despair that time is fleeting, but remember that our time is limited. And so are we. But if you’re a Christ-follower, the time you have is a gift, and you choose to use it in a way that God can grow. A puff of smoke isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference in the world, but a puff of smoke in God’s hands can become something more. Because God has a history of taking small, insignificant things and making them last forever.

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