This Shadow Life

by Ted Kyle

"Surely every man walks about like a shadow..." (Ps. 39:6 NKJV).

Everyone wonders about "the beyond," but regardless of our religious beliefs we are strongly inclined to think of now as reality and then as shadowy and insubstantial. We are, in fact, exactly as Paul describes us in 1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly...."

This is natural enough: ours is a "concrete" world. We see, feel, taste, touch, hear. We sit in a chair and it is solid beneath us (most chairs, anyway). We fall, and feel pain. We kiss a loved one and feel pleasure.Everything about our life assures us that this is the real world.

By comparison, the after-life seems like a diaphanous phantom existence: something we believe in, but the picture is fuzzy and seems incredibly remote...something seen dimly, just as Paul told us.

We need to sink our teeth into our text and gnaw it until it releases its fragrance. As we walk by faith, let us learn by faith: the text says to us that our present existence is the shadow-life, while by contrast the spiritual life, upon which we enter after passing through the dark door, is the real life.

The future alone is reality. The things we experience here, the joys and sorrows, the tests and trials-all are merely shadow, without genuine substance, though they constitute a foreshadowing.

This is not to say that our present is unimportant. To the contrary, this life is the only opportunity we have to learn who we are and why we are here-to discover God, our Creator, the One whom we were created to worship and to love. But we do this with a veil over our eyes and minds. We "see through a glass, dimly."

The only way we can pierce through the murk which enfolds us is to use our eyes of faith. The world will never understand this, but to those of us who have been reborn into new life from above, our vision grows keener as we grow into the image of Christ. As we go on, the future becomes clearer and dearer, while at the same time, the details of this life-which once seemed so important-begin to lose their luster and appeal. Our hearts increasingly yearn for the glories which await us.

And our understanding Father aids and abets this shift of viewpoint by letting our minds and bodies (of which we were once so proud) deteriorate. Our Father knows, you see, that often we need nudges to be willing to let go of this life. For it is a first-magnitude truth that we cannot truly enter into the next life until we have parted with this life. The one is a preparation for the other.

And the second is the real world. It's colors are more vivid, its pleasures more pure and vital, its focus-God in all His fully-revealed splendor-more rapturous than we can now conceive. The other side of the land beyond is also more real: more somber, more filled with grieving, more hopeless in its endlessness, than any concept of hell we can now imagine.

Time hurries us on, regardless of whether we have chosen to be God's children while in this life or not. The same infirmities come to all, in time: the creaks and groans of complaining bodies, the gradual (or sudden) loss of function, the minds which no longer work as they once did. To some, these things come as reminders that the world is not our home. To others they are pressing reminders or warnings that they are unready for that final journey-if only they will heed.

Come, ye children of the King. Let us labor for the Master while it is yet day for us. Let us work with the knowledge that we have but limited time at our disposal to finish the work which God has given us.