The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts… Ecclesiastes 3:11
Last August I hiked the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was 440 miles through the Cascade Mountains of central Oregon. I met a lot of very interesting people. People from many foreign countries like Switzerland, Finland, Australia, Ireland, and Texas.
One young lady was hiking with her dog, Zoe. She had long brown hair with strands of gray streaking through her braids. I came upon her sitting in the shade one afternoon trying to cool down in 93 degree heat reading a Steinbeck novel. We chatted about Mr. Steinbeck for a while and then I moved on.
Two hours later I was taking a break in the shade of a tree and I heard singing from up the trail. Not particularly good singing, but singing—the kind of singing you do when you have ear buds in and don’t think anyone is within earshot. Not something you hear very often in the wilderness. It was Megan and Zoe hiking at a good clip down the trail towards me singing along with Alanis Morsette. She blushed, waved, and kept walking.
We kept meeting on the trail and having clips of conversations about life on the trail for about 60 miles. One time a few of us were stopped at stream and she mentioned that her father had dropped her off at the trailhead in northern California. I asked her a typical male/father question, “What does your father think of you hiking the trail all by yourself?” She shot me a defiant look and asked, “What does your father think of you hiking the trail all by yourself?” I felt I might have offended her so I said, “He’d be jealous.” She said, “Yeah, my dad is jealous too.”
Another time I asked this hippy, bohemian, Californian girl what she did away from the trail. She said she was a Sustainable Transportation Planner and Program Developer for a small college in Monterrey, California.
I asked her to repeat what she just said.
“I’m a Sustainable Transportation Planner and Program Developer for a small college” —spoken a little slower as if I couldn’t keep up.
I smiled and said that is so cool. I asked her to tell me about her work.
She said, “I advocate a vision of a transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, moves the most people in the least space with the least energy, and promotes public health through exercise. I promote strategies for transit service, transit capital improvements, transportation demand management, automobile parking, pedestrian connectivity and safety, bicycle connectivity and safety, and wayfinding.”
“Oh,” I said.
I learned more about the environment than Al Gore sitting on that log beside that stream. I kept affirming her work of stewarding the environment, and the more I affirmed her the more she talked, this Sustainable Transportation Planner and Program Developer from California.
Finally she sighed and said, “I want this earth to be alive and well long after I’m gone and I’ve dedicated my life to make that happen.”
“How long do you think that this earth is going to last?” I asked.
“Not very long if we don’t do our part,” she said.
“I couldn’t agree with you more, Megan. I think the law of entropy is clearly at work. As you know it states that anything left to itself will become more disorganized and more random. Like my garage. If I don’t clean it out and put everything away, after a while it becomes cluttered and disorganized. The universe acts in the same way.
The earth is not sustainable because the Universe is not sustainable. But we want it to be. I certainly want to be. But the best minds this world has ever produced have said it will one day end. Our sun will one day go super nova and burn out. It will all one day end. I believe in doing everything we can to care for it, but ultimately it is fading away. There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “The grass withers, the flower fades and surely the people are grass.”
She stared at me and then said, “So, are you saying that I should not be trying to save the planet?”
“No! Keep doing it! We need you to do your best to sustain this good earth. I’m just saying that ultimately it is winding down. But you aren’t. You will live forever.”
“What do you mean?” she asked
“Just as thirst proves that there is water and hunger proves that there is food, your passion for a sustainable earth proves that you have eternity in your heart. You long for significance, you long for sustainability. It is in your DNA, in fact it is deeper than that, Megan. You have sustainability in your soul. Taste the huckleberries at your feet, look at Mount Jefferson, and listen to that woodpecker rapping away on that tree…you are similar and yet you are very different. Another old proverb says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts.”
She blinked and asked, “Who are you, really?”
I smiled and said, “I’m a Soul Sustainability Transportation Consultant and Program Developer for a small group of apprentices in Washington State.”
She just blinked at me.
“I’m just messing with you, Megan. But I do work hard to awaken the sustainable. I hope you will continue to do your good work and listen to what your soul is trying to tell your head.”
“Okay,” she said. “Do you have any extra coffee?”
That was her signal that she was ready to change the topic. We said our goodbyes and I never saw her again.
Dallas Willard reminds us, “You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” This is just true, but I’m also like grass. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. God didn’t plant death in the human heart. This not the way we were supposed to be. Death came because of sin, and that includes my sin, and I’m going to have to face a holy God on a day of reckoning, and I have not lived up to the standard of his holiness. Not by a million light-years. Human self-sufficiency is not going to get me out of this one. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, all the creativity and innovation and pride of America is not going to innovate us out of this one
That’s why Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” So, I listen to that divine echo of eternity in my soul and believe. In fact, I am doing more than that. I’m wagering my eternity on that echo. How about you?
Here’s praying I see you on the other side.