As a longtime lover of words, there are instances when their timing or arrangement unexpectedly snags my heart and evokes such deep emotion I can scarcely verbalize it. And so I ponder the meaning as well as the emotion for a while before trying to give them voice.
That's what happened to me recently as I read through a very familiar portion of Scripture in Isaiah 21, where the prophet sees and declares the impending, violent overthrow of Babylon. Regardless of how Isaiah felt toward the city or culture of Babylon, he was nearly undone at the vision of what would happen to the people who lived there.
And rightfully so. Though we may feel compelled to proclaim God's Word and to stand for His righteousness in the face of whatever evil comes our way, we should also grieve at the pain that comes to those who reject God's warning and mercy.
Isaiah was so grieved that he said, "My mind reels, horror overwhelms me; The twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling" (verse 4, emphasis mine.) How descriptive of his anguish! And how lovely his words that so describe my own feelings as I approach the end of my earthly sojourn.
Oh, I know. I'm only sixty-two, and in today's world that's really not that old. But let's be honest here, shall we? I'm a lot closer to the end than the beginning of my life. And I'm fine with that! After all, I know without a shadow of a doubt where I will go when I breathe my last. But even as a believer who has been blessed to walk with God for more than thirty-five years and to have spent much of that time in public ministry, I will admit that I have regrets. And Isaiah's words, "the twilight I longed for," brings many of those regrets to the surface.
Didn't we all begin our lives with great dreams and plans? As we grow up and establish lives of our own, those dreams and plans expand to include those we love. Did all those dreams and plans work out as we'd hoped? Probably not, though some may have come close and possibly even exceeded our expectations.
But what of the plans and dreams that were birthed in us when we came to that place in our natural lives where we gave our hearts to Christ and became true believers? Did any of those new plans or dreams include hurting others or dishonoring our Lord? Of course not.
Yet those things sometimes happen, don't they? When they do, we confess them and ask for forgiveness and move on. Yet a whisper of disappointment often lingers in our hearts, floating like an unwanted wisp of smoke or vapor on the wind, reminding us of our failures and disappointments when we least expect it.
• The broken relationship
• The prodigal child
• The wasted opportunity
• The selfish choice
• The failed career/ministry
The list could go on indefinitely, and each of us could add to it. But what's the point? Remembering the past only changes the present if we receive God's forgiveness and focus on what He has promised us for the future.
And that's the key. Though we as Christians know that our lives here on earth are but a tiny speck in the unending, incomprehensible enormity and joy of eternity, we are still trapped in these temporal, decaying bodies. If we don't stay vigilant and focused, our everyday existence will overwhelm the reality of what lies ahead. Today then becomes the measuring stick of our lives, and somehow we all come up short. The "twilight we longed for" bears little resemblance to the actual final years of our life on earth, and that can prove to be a great tragedy.
The Scriptures tell us that God has put eternity in the hearts of all men (see Ecclesiastes 3:11), and that includes a sense of homesickness that can never be satisfied until we are at last in His presence. Our eternal home is not so much a place as it is a Presence—His—and basking in it will be the fulfillment of all the longings that have teased and tortured us while we walked the world in our fleshly limitations.
That includes the poignant sense of regret and sadness that sometimes lingers or hovers over us, marring the twilight we longed for as our life on earth draws to a close.
Maybe the twilight you long for includes seeing your children and grandchildren grown and healthy and actively serving God—excellent aspirations! Or perhaps something a little more self-centered, such as a comfortable retirement nest egg and the ability to travel whenever and wherever you wish. Maybe it's something as simple as maintaining your health and mental faculties so you won't be a burden on someone else. If your heart is truly dedicated to serving the Lord, do you dream of coming to the twilight of your life after a long and effective term of service in ministry to God and others?
Whatever makes up the twilight you long for, there is always the chance that things may work out quite differently. We get sick, children make choices we wish they hadn't, the economy collapses, your job is phased out, an earthquake hits….
Another endless list, and another pointless activity to dwell on it. For it isn't so much what has happened (or not) by the time we reach the twilight of our lives, but rather where our heart is as we make that transition from twilight to everlasting Day, where the Son is the Light and our tears are at last wiped away. If our twilight years were as perfect as heaven, why would we want to leave here and move on? Though it's important to serve God and others until our last breath, we do so with our focus on the joys that lie ahead, not the memories or sorrows that tug at us from behind.
If we truly want the twilight we dreamed of to become a joyous reality and not a time of heartache and regret, then we must be certain that from our earliest years our dreams are focused on the One who waits for us at the end of that twilight time. With God at the center of all we do and say and think, then the inevitable fading of twilight into darkness will be washed away in the brilliant burst of Sonlight that waits to show us the way home. Even the most difficult trials or visions of evil, such as those seen by the prophet Isaiah, cannot stand up to the glory that shall one day be revealed in those of us who belong to the One who has already conquered the regrets and disappointments that lurk at twilight.
Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning author of more than thirty books, including her latest releases, No Greater Love and More than Conquerors from New Hope Publishers.