The Borderlines: A Place Called Earth


When we stand at the borderline and understand the limitations and futility of our lives, we have begun to see as God intended for us to see.


Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth
Where every son and daughter will know their worth
Where all the streets resound with thunderous joy
Oh how I long for heaven in a place called earth

Song writers have common themes and images that run through their work. Jon Forman is one of my favorite song writers because he resonates with a theme that has run through my thinking over the last decade: the transience of this life and the transcendence of the life to come.

In the song, A Place Called Earth, he focuses on the “borderlines” between the transience of our lives and the longing for transcendence. It’s an age-old theme. It’s a theme that has been the subject of some of the greatest writers in the history of world from the author of Ecclesiastes to Shakespeare.

The video embedded above was a recent live performance of this song off the new EP, Departures. Linked below is the studio recording of A Place Called Earth that was written by Jon Foreman with his brother, Tim, and Lauren Daigle. I encourage you to listen to it in all of its orchestral fullness.

The hope of the Christ follower is the longing for heaven, a place where everyone knows their worth through the eyes of Jesus who will greet us face to face. We have this hope, however, this treasure, in earthen vessels. (2 Corinthians 4:7) We long for heaven in a place called earth.

Oh, the wars we haven’t won
Oh, the songs we’ve left unsung
Oh, the dreams we haven’t seen
The borderlines

Jon Foreman’s plaintive voice captures the angst of these lines perfectly. We try to notch our belts with victories, but what of all the defeats? The songs we have left unsung? The great dreams we dared to dream that we haven’t seen?

All our victories are hollow trophies at the end of our days. Memories of them begin to fade from the moment of victory. Like the entropy to which our universe is subjected (Romans 8:20), those memories will fade into utter obscurity long after we have taken our last breaths.

We see this on the borderlines. On the borderlines, where we peer out over an endless expanse yawning out into a far distant future, and beyond it into an eternity we can’t even fathom, we realize our utter insignificance…. if we can see that far.

We can’t see that far, though. We look back into a fading, but familiar, past. We see our dying dreams there; we hear faint echoes of songs we might have song; we feel the weight of battles fought, but not won.

At any given time, in any given place, we stand at the borderlines between our past and future in a present that alludes our ability to hold it fast. These borderlines are the fog in which we live out our lives as our past and future fade into darkness just beyond our grasp.

And here we are between all of our hopes and fear
Chasing down these stolen years
Reaching out for hands unseen
On the borderline, the borderline

We live in the in between. We live between hopes and fear. We live between the regrets and fading victories of our past and the promise of the unseen for which we grope.

For the Christ follower, the unseen is where our hope rests, but our hope is not in something unknown. Our hope is in the Person of God who emptied Himself and came to us in human form, sacrificing Himself to the caprice and evil of his own creatures, in order to rescue us from ourselves. (Philippians 2:5-8)

Our hope is in God who knows us better than we know our own selves. (Psalm 139:1-18) Our hope is to see Him one day face to be face, and we will know fully, even as we are fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth
Where every son and daughter would know their worth
Where all the streets resound with thunderous joy
Oh how I long for heaven in a place called earth

When we stand at the borderline and understand the limitations and futility of our lives, we have begun to see as God intended for us to see.

God set eternity in our hearts, but He does not let us understand the beginning from the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God subjected our lives to this futility in hope (Romans 8:20-21) that we would desire a City, the architect and builder of which is God (Hebrews 11:8-10) and “a better country—a heavenly one”. (Hebrews 11:16)

The wars we haven’t won, the songs we haven’t sung, and the dreams we haven’t seen are intended to haunt us. Why else would they haunt us if God did not subject us to this futility in hope that we would long for something better?

And this is where it gets real:

Jesus name still on her tongue
Questions buried in her lungs:
“Oh my father, why my son?”
On the borderlines, the borderlines

When we suffer deep, personal loss, when our dreams give way to nightmares, and the inevitable finality of this life becomes a yawning chasm in our souls, we stand truly at the borderlines. We can retreat to the shallow satisfaction of what remains of this transient life, or we can leap into the hope of hands unseen.

This is where the longing gets real, but God does not leave us alone on the edge of that yawning precipice. He entered our world and sacrificed Himself to us and for us, and He rose from the dead in that same body that He sacrificed.

Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth
Where every son and daughter will know their worth
Where all the streets resound with thunderous joy
Oh how I long for heaven in a place called earth

He came not to condemn us to the futility of this world, but to offer us eternal life in Him (John 3:17) of which Jesus is the first fruit. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21) Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrated for us His intention that the perishable bodies into which we are sown are meant to be raised imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

But, these perishable bodies cannot inherit the imperishable. We need a new seed, an imperishable seed. Thus, we must be born again. (John 3:3)

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6) We must receive the Spirit, which we do by believing in the One who came to us, died and rose again. (John 3:16)

I had a dream that I finally saw your face
Dancing in the arms of grace
Dancing through the joy and pain
On the borderlines, the borderlines

This Jesus who lived, and died, and rose again from the dead meets us at the borderlines. When he ascended and returned to His rightful place, He left us His Spirit to comfort and help us. (John 16:7) We do not face the past, the present, and the future alone. The Spirit gives us a foretaste of that future yet unseen.

The Spirit is the first fruit of the imperishable seed within us “as we groan inwardly, waiting for our adoption by God as His children”: this is our present hope. (Romans 8:23-25) The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us as we live on the borderlines between this world and the next. (Romans 8:26-30)

Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth
Where every son and daughter will know their worth
Where all the streets resound with thunderous joy
Oh how I long for heaven in a place called earth

Thus, we long not in desperation, but in hope. In the real hope of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We long for a day when “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” Paul says, “[T]he trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

Oh how I long for heaven in a place called earth

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