I Corinthians 7:29-31 (NRSV)
Verse 29I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, Verse 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, Verse 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
In college, our professor told us that a big part of our education was telling the difference between the ultimate (what is really of value) and the penultimate (good things that wouldn’t last). The idea was that the ultimate, when we could see it, would help us when we had to let go of the penultimate. I think this is what Paul is getting at here.
While I was on internship during my seminary studies, I visited a couple who had lost their only son. The mom showed me her son’s room, preserved just as it was the day he died. The dad sat out the tour, silently fuming. I could see that they were going to be mired in their grief for a long time. Would telling them about the difference between “ultimate” and “penultimate” have helped? It takes a lifetime to learn that simple lesson. It’s our calling to understand it, and that God walks with us as we learn.
God, relationships are a gift, as vital as marriage, as warm as rejoicing, as heartbreaking as death. Dare we ask that neither the best or worst of times cloud our vision of your presence and promise? Amen.