I saw some sad news a while back. Evidently the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans museum has closed and the owners recently auctioned off all of the memorabilia, including Roy’s (taxidermied) horse Trigger and dog Bullet (I’m glad they didn’t stuff Dale, too!).

Rogers wasn’t an icon of my generation, but with the advent of cable television and a lack of programming to fill the available time slots, suddenly the wild west was riding through the living room of my childhood. I loved
The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, and Wanted Dead or Alive, as well as the great old westerns starring John Wayne, Roy Rogers and the like.

And I suppose that as the remaining vestiges of Rogers’ generation ride off into the sunset of life, there isn’t much traffic at the museum anymore. But it’s sad to see what’s left of the King of Cowboys–his boots and hats, his famous stuffed mount–ride off into the sunset of memory. It reminds me of the transitory nature of our lives, and how that stands in stark, incontrovertible contrast to God’s eternity.

Have you ever tried to grasp eternity? Hendrik Von Loon once tried to write an adequate description of eternity in the introduction of his book, “The History of Mankind”, and this is what he wrote:

HIGH Up in the North there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.

Such a concept as eternity is hard for humans to grasp. We’re nothing more than a dot, a breath, when it comes to eternity. Psalm 103 tells us, “As for man his days are like grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field. The wind blows and his place is remembered no more.” These are biblical metaphors for the brevity of life.

I turned forty a while back, which may account for these rather macabre reflections. Those of you who are older than I have probably already thought this through. Those of you who are younger, well, you’ll get your chance. All one has to do is live one’s life, and eventually you’ll come up against the fragility of human existence.

Just have a child for instance, and realize that the sweet baby you hold in your arms will inevitably moulder in a grave just as you will some day. I won’t forget the first time a priest placed a cross of ashes on my then 6-month old son’s head and told him, “to dust you shall return.” I remember his Winnie the Pooh cap, his little stockinged feet, and that stark black cross on his sweet little forehead.

The truth is that you will die, and everything that you leave behind will end up as someone else’s junk, even if you’re Roy Rogers. One time while preparing an estate lot for auction, I discovered that among this person’s worldly possessions we were also holding the owner’s ashes, which no one had bothered to claim and for which no one has inquired since. Someday that could be me. It could be you, too.

This is a sad, tragic, and universal aspect of human life. But God has given us his answer to the problem, one that is as timeless and eternal as we long for it to be deep down inside. That answer is the Cross, which is God’s way of dealing infinitely with the problem of our finitude. And it is ultimately the only answer that satisfies.

But don’t just take my word for it, let John Prine explain the situation:

All the snow has turned to water
Christmas days have come and gone
Broken toys and faded colors
Are all that’s left to linger on

I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs

Memories they can’t be boughten
They can’t be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me

Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this
Always look the same to me

I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs