It sounds like one of those heavy-duty words – impermanence. But it’s not too difficult at all to wrap your head around the concept. Something that’s here today but gone tomorrow is impermanent. Something that stole the spotlight yesterday but is nowhere to be found today – is impermanent. A temporary show. The stunning yellow rose that won the summer gardening contest, eventually loses its beauty. It droops and wilts. Its once beautiful petals drop to the ground. Temporary. Fleeting.
Marc Treanor knows all about impermanence. He’s a sand artist in the United Kingdom. He spends hours creating beautifully elaborate pieces of art along the sandy beaches of the Welsh Pembrokeshire Coast in Britain.
Treanor forges stunningly intricate patterns and pictures by raking wet sand.
When he’s done, Treanor watches as his hard work is consumed by the crashing waves, but he says that’s all part of the experience.
“It’s completely part of it, it’s totally integral to the work and the fact it is impermanent and it is temporary,” Treanor says. (1)
Marc Treanor’s fame is rising. His sand creations are amazing and must be breath-taking to see in real-life – before the waves start lapping at the periphery. He sketches-out the design on a piece of paper before he arrives at the beach. And then, off to a sandy beach he goes, with rake in hand. Often people watch his creations take shape in the sand.
When the piece of sand-art is completed, Treanor and his helpers and often onlookers, head to a high cliff to watch the next phase of the process.
About the next phase, Treanor says:
“This is the sort of contemplative side, so ideally there’s a nice viewpoint and whoever’s been involved, we can all go up to the clifftop and gaze down upon the beach and watch the creation being reabsorbed by the sea.” (2)
The art disappears.
Treanor usually carries a camera with him, but he recalls one time where he had forgotten both his camera and his cell-phone. He had no way to capture the image. All he could do is watch it disappear – never to be seen again.
Sounds a lot like life in general. Temporary. Passing. Fleeting.
The Bible says:
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. James 4:14
David, the poet and harpist king in the Bible wrote these words:
LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. (5) You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to You; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude (6) We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. (7) And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You. Psalm 39:4-7
Watch the people rushing to work in the morning. Earbuds in. Herding into the bus. A new day. Arriving at their stop. Rushing off the bus and to their workplace. And then, the same thing in reverse at the end of the day. Tomorrow is no different.
Intensity tightens the muscles on some faces. Others stare blankly – as if the sheer boredom of the mundane and the routine is sinking into their consciousness. Some are like a hamster hopping on and off its wheel – over and over again.
Projects. Meetings. Water fountain chats. Assignments. Processing. Initiatives. Reports. Research. Duties. Counting and accounting. Talking. Typing. Texting. Presenting. Payday. Purchases. Bills. Leisure. Family. And there is nothing wrong with all of the above. In fact, the Bible encourages diligence, hard work and rewards. It’s life.
Yes – life! Maybe 35 years. Perhaps 63. Possibly 81. But the tide always comes in. The ripples and waves eventually reach our perimeter and lap a way until the core is swept away and the last vestiges of our imprint in the sands of time disappear. Our beautiful productions in life, our achievements and our awards fade. Our time is over.
The impermanence of this life – in contrast to the permanence of eternity – think about it. Where will you be when you cross to the other side of the stage of life and you slip behind the curtain? You enter the eternal sphere. Where will you be?
Unlike Buddhism, the Bible teaches the permanence of the soul – the real you. Imperishable and eternal. No, we are not in cycles of existence – constant change: live, die, rebirth, redeath, etc. You have only one life to live in the dimension of time and then the real you enters eternity.
So, what’s more important in life – playing with the sand in life at the water’s edge or preparing for the ocean voyage to the other side?
The Bible says:
Prepare to meet your God. Amos 4:12
You can be fully prepared for the passage from time into eternity. You can be sure you will reach the preferred destination. No one arrives in the right place [Heaven] by accident or default. Consciously, in time – yes, in this life, you have a deeply personal and permanent choice to make. What you choose will never be erased by the lapping of waves or the incoming tide. It will determine where you will be after you take your last breath.
Regarding that choice, the Bible says:
But to all who did receive him [Jesus Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son [Jesus]. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1John 5:11-13
The one who believes in the Son [Jesus] has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36