On Monday, August 29th, as Bill Rice Bible College students were arriving for the fall semester, a fire started in the Administration Building where our offices were located. Thankfully everyone made it out safely and with no injuries.
Material items were not so lucky. Office workers, teachers, and grade-school students lost personal belongings that were left behind when the alarm of “Fire! Get out of the building” echoed through the hallways. All of the college students’ textbooks, instructional materials, and a variety of college-related equipment were damaged by heat, smoke, or water. In addition, pretty much my entire personal library was lost.
The experience of losing material possessions that once seemed so vital has been sobering. When I first entered the building after the fire, I was searching for hope that “things” could be salvaged. “Maybe that book…” “Maybe that souvenir from our family vacation…” Some of those thoughts were driven by ministry concerns (i.e. teaching at the Bible college). Some of them were driven by the time and money those items represented.
However, as I sifted through books and class notes (some of which were hand-written), I was surprised at how much I was able to discard with little concern. Their temporary nature, which had always been true of them, became even more evident.
Through his ministry and the hardships that accompanied it, Paul understood that the world in which we live and serve is only temporary. In fact, everything about our physical, mortal existence (our bodies, our possessions, our afflictions) is only “for a season.” This does not mean that our earthly existence is without significance. Paul stated that temporal, earth-bound experiences, like suffering, pay dividends toward an eternal one.
Sadly, we Christians can view this present life as more real than the life to come. But, by looking past earth-bound possessions and experiences to the unseen world to which we are going, we can more easily face life’s challenges and view the loss of what is temporary as no loss at all.