My wife and I have come to see the Chimney Bluffs along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. We’re spending a few days in the Finger Lakes region of New York, finding day excursions. Our daughter recommended this park.
After climbing the trail to see the bluffs from above, I am now walking along the stony beach to view them from below. The expansive water of the lake is calm, lapping the shoreline. From time to time, I come across small towers of balanced rocks, a common practice of park visitors these days.
I find them an unnecessary addition to the existing natural beauty (the national parks service considers them to be vandalism), but today, they strike me as an act of defiance.
For this landmark is a tribute to erosion. Even the name hints at the ongoing decay: these look more like dragon’s teeth than chimneys to me. Perhaps, a hundred years ago, they were stately towers. Now, it seems, much of what they were is buried in the long slides of mud that reach the beach.
I’m not surprised, then, to find attempts to make personal statements in face of all that disintegration. We don’t like to be reminded of our impermanence. So much of what we do in life – from writing books to volunteering to pouring ourselves into our children and grandchildren – is an effort to make a lasting mark. To be remembered.
The antidote is to know the one who is Eternal. John describes his encounter with the transformed Jesus in Revelation:
Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. (Rev 1:17)
Jesus is the opening sentence of all creation and he is the closing word. He bookends all of history. I notice for the first time that in this verse, Jesus touches and raises John with his right hand – which denotes power and autonomy in Scripture. His power is untouched by time. Undiminished through the ages.
Something moves in the stones by my feet. I look down to see that it is a grasshopper, perhaps blown down from the cliffs above. I feel a kinship with this temporary visitor, whose lifespan is but a few months. In the vastness of time, I am but a brief bug.
But Jesus places his hand of power on me and reminds me that he is the eternal one. And that I belong to him.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about impermanence. Pointing to nearby flowers, he said, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30, ESV).
He clothes us not only with fabric that fades and decays, but with eternal life.
Life that time cannot touch.
Jesus, Eternal One, Alpha and Omega, First and Last, we thank you that by your death and resurrection, you make us permanently yours. Speak this truth into our souls.
Reader: Where have you seen dramatic effects of erosion?