The story is told of an American tourist who visited the 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. Astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked, "Rabbi, where is your furniture?"
"Where is yours?" Replied the rabbi.
"Mine?" Asked the puzzled American. "But I'm a visitor here. I'm only passing through."
"So am I," said Hofetz Chaim.
Passing through happens in so many ways. We are visitors to each day the Lord has given us. We pass through places where we live and call home. We pass through friends, losing some and gaining others. Our families change. Youth turns to adulthood and then to old age.
Our life on this side of eternity is a passing through. You have likely noticed that Jesus traveled and did a lot of passing through. You may have also noticed that he did it unencumbered by home and wealth, things we feel we must have and things that can become a cause for us to worry. The felt need for the security of a place and our things is shaped by the world we live in and cannot escape, but the same was true for people in Jesus’ day. Yet, Jesus tells us that we are passing through. To the rich man, who to his credit had kept all the commandments but who was also encumbered by his wealth, Jesus said to “sell it all and give it to the poor. Then come follow me.” He taught that entering the kingdom was through a small door and that holding onto wealth and things could be a problem (Matthew 19:24). To others he spoke of the necessity of setting our hearts on building up treasure in the place we would eventually arrive when the passing through has ended. Like Jesus, in this life we are just passing through.
Likewise with our accomplishments and our failures. These, too, are passing. Most will never have monuments built to their memory and those few who do will also eventually be forgotten by this world. However, earthly accomplishments can provide an opportunity for recognizing our good fortune, our giftedness, and expressing our gratitude. They can lift our eyes off the approval of the world and to the approval of God. Our faith tells us that heaven is our home and the only accomplishment with eternal significance is receiving our family membership through Christ. As with accomplishments, failures are a passing part of this life. Learn from them, let them also be a source of sanctification, and then let them pass. I imagine that it can take much courage and grace to accept the impermanence of our lives and to receive and let go of what each day brings.
In this passing through, know that you are loved and already heirs of a kingdom beyond all you can ask or imagine. It is a place where all that needs to be accomplished already has been accomplished for you and where failures will neither be recalled nor known. Blessings of courage and grace be upon you as you pass through this life to your eternal life in the household of our God.