“. . .and their inheritance will endure forever” Psalm 37
I’m told that one of the all-too-human urges behind a desire to write is a somewhat unconscious wish to create something timeless. We want to be a Hemingway or a Dickinson, a Milton or a Shakespeare. We want to speak, long after our voice box has been dusted away from whence it has come.
Maybe. When as an undergraduate I stumbled on a love of literature I never knew I had, I’ll admit believing that one of the perks of the writing life was the possibility of being included in those fat lit anthologies. That was before I knew the word “remaindered,” and long before I realized how many of us actually sit here, fingers curled over the keys, shooting for immortality.
A friend of mine, the book editor of a major American newspaper, gets 100 books a day to review. There’s lots of competition to get a place in those anthologies.
Some time ago, I corresponded with two antiquarian book sellers in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Years ago, I stumbled on a moldy cardboard box of old Dutch books in an antique store. The woman up front told me she’d just as soon get rid of them. “Five bucks,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
Inside, I found ancient theological tomes, literally hundreds of years old. Simply to hold one is a thrill. But they have no vital relationship to me, even though my own DNA wears wooden shoes on both sides of the family. My great-grandfather came from
teach theology in the 1870s; I’ve got many of his books too. Those I wouldn’t sell.
When finally those booksellers got back to me, I was amazed at how little those books were worth. The cost to ship them to Holland would, on its own, devour whatever those old books promised. They’re back on my shelf.
What real value they have derives from their age, not their authors. The most ancient was published in 1655. It’s a bit smaller than a paperback, has an abundance of bronze, liver-spotted pages, and is some kind of theological study—De Yverigan, Christen, den Hemel door Heyligh Gevvelt:innemende. I have only a faint idea of what that means. I’m not even sure there is an author listed.
Most books published today won’t endure like Christen, den Hemel—it’s a matter of physics, I'm told, of the quality of ink and paper. Okay, I admit it—that’s a bit unsettling. Somewhere in me I must have this jaded wish to live forever by way of the words now appearing on my screen. However, read ‘em and weep, because these old books say, “Listen, brother, don’t count on it.”
And then there’s David, whose words are animating every last key stroke I’m making right now, thousands and thousands of years after he sat down with the parchment. But the promise he’s giving us in this verse of Psalm 37 has nothing to do with his poetry or his music, even those softly plaintive tones from the harp, the ones that calmed King’s Saul’s soul.
The enduring inheritance David promises in this line is nothing more or less than eternity, life forever, the gift of God to those the psalm calls “blameless,” recipients of God’s own grace. We will live forever.
And that, I’ve long been convinced, is mine. Even if these words slip away from the cloud after a decade or two, even if nothing I ever say lasts any longer than an hour or two after lunch.
Eternity, by grace, is mine.
That, no matter what I say or write, is an inheritance that endures. Forever.