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“The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here.” (Psalm 103:16)

When Margaret Mitchell selected “Gone with the Wind” as the title for her epic tale, she was referring to a remembered past as the main characters in the story find themselves trying to survive in a world which had considerably changed.  One of the best-selling novels of all time, it was published on June 30, 1936 and served as the basis for a blockbuster movie just three years later. The expression “gone with the wind” itself comes from a poem by Ernest Dowson. In Mitchell’s novel, protagonist Scarlett O’Hara also uses the phrase from a line of dialogue in the book. When her hometown is overtaken during the Civil War by the Yankees, she wonders if her home plantation is still standing, or if it was “also gone with the wind which had swept through Georgia”. The reference here, of course, is to the pre-war South’s elite culture with its expansive plantations and elegant society, so easily contrasted with the oppression of slavery. The romanticized view of passion and loss captivated readers far and wide and was ranked by a 2008 Harris poll as the second favorite book of American readers, just behind The Bible.

Whether you saw the movie or read the book, you’ll remember the first views of Scarlett as innocent, charming and flirtatious when the most important thing on her mind was which dress to wear to a barbecue. She would never have imagined herself three years later scavenging for food with no shoes or change of clothes. We identify with her character because as we go through life, many of us also find ourselves in or having gone through humbling situations. The Apostle Paul gave this warning: “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:13-14). Once when I visited a few local cemeteries, I observed two massively engraved monuments placed by persons in an effort to memorialize themselves or their family. I found no humility in those grave markers. Those who are so desperate to be remembered could benefit from these wise words found in the Old Testament: “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).

If we are realistic, we can easily conclude that life as we know it can change in an instant. If we become too self-absorbed, we risk being able to appreciate the things around us and learning to know God at His fullest. No one can attest to that better than Joni Eareckson Tada.  Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1949 – she was the youngest of four daughters. Experiencing a very active life all through her growing up years, Joni enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into the Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a cervical fracture, and her earthly life drastically changed. Now as a quadriplegic – she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. After years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others.  Today, she is married, has written forty-five books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities. In 2017, fifty years after her accident, she wrote: “Grace softens the edges of past pains, helping to highlight the eternal. What you are left with is peace that’s profound, joy that’s unshakable, faith that’s ironclad.”

Jesus told a brief parable in which He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Bottom-line – the kingdom of heaven is more precious than anything we possess, and it is worth all we have. Once we have found the prize, we are willing to give up everything to possess it. This spiritual truth is missed by many and cannot be gained by possession of power, worldly wisdom or earthly shrines listing the great things we have done. We need to secure our future through a Higher Power and come to realize that life as we now know it will one day be simply gone with the wind.

REFLECTION: How should the fleeting nature of life humble us?  What parts of your daily life do you take for granted that could easily change in an instant? How might you refocus your view of normalcy as being boring or monotonous?  In light of scriptural teaching about the temporary nature of satisfaction and recognition, what changes in your earthly life would better prepare you for an eternity with God?


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