Last week, we talked about impermanence, the fact that nothing in this world remains the same over time. And it’s true that nothing we see or feel or create will last forever. But I hope I didn’t oversell impermanence to you, because there actually is at least one thing that will last forever: us.
We aren’t completely immune to the effects of change. After all, our bodies grow and develop over time, and our personalities change as well. But there is something core to each of us that remains throughout all of the growing, changing, and developing we go through. In my faith tradition, we call it the human soul. There are other words for it: true self, identity, essence.
Regardless of what you call it, it’s undeniable that there is something inside each of us that makes us who we are and does not change. That’s why you don’t call someone by a different name just because they grow a few inches or suddenly decide to change hobbies. That something is permanent, eternal endless. And it can be affected in profound ways by certain things. I thought that this week, we might talk about a few of them.
One of the things that sticks with us is the lessons we learn along the way. Whether it be through personal experience, study, passed-down wisdom, or observing others, we each pick up on certain truths as we go through life. These lessons shape us into who we are and change the way we interact with the world and with others. Sometimes, we learn a lesson that completely alters the trajectory of our lives. Other times, we learn tiny lessons that have more subtle, but nonetheless real, impacts. Regardless, these lessons are a part of who we are, and they go with us as we grow and change, and even when we die.
Another thing that sticks with us is grace, both the grace shown to us by others and the grace we ourselves choose to show. When someone gives us a gift or forgives us for something when we don’t deserve it, it shows us how deeply good humanity can be. And when we do the same for others, we share in that goodness in a powerful way. Grace makes us into more grateful, compassionate, empathetic people. In a word, it makes us better. And in that way, it has a permanent effect.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what I consider to be the greatest act of grace in all of the history: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ grace towards me has changed the way I live my life now as well as my eternal trajectory, and this one act has done so for millions of others, too. If you ever wonder what grace is or what it can do, Jesus is the perfect example to look to, and we would all do well to live into that grace and practice it in the way that he did.
Finally, love is the thing we do that has the most lasting impact of all. Loving others and being loved by them changes us at a fundamental level. Feeling loved by family, friends, and community allows us to feel secure and to be our truest selves. And loving others teaches us to sacrifice and give of ourselves in order to improve the lives of others. Love is the most wonderful and powerful thing that we humans can do, and when we choose to love, we are making an investment in people that will last forever.
So if you were a little discouraged by my explanation of impermanence last week, take heart. You do have an opportunity to do something that lasts forever, just not in the ways you might usually think. By sharing lessons, grace, and love with others, you can impact and form them in ways that will last far longer than anything you could ever earn or make. Because these things last an eternity, and what could be more meaningful than that?