Exit 21

Life’s exits and entrances

‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.’  So mused the doleful Jacques in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, going on to mention ‘seven ages’ of each actor in life’s drama, from ‘the infant’ to the ‘last scene of all; a second childishness and mere oblivion’ reminiscent of the portrayal of old age in Ecclesiastes 12:1-7. The famous crooner, Frank Sinatra, also often sang about life as a stage play, ending ‘when I face the final curtain’.

Junction 21

J 21 is our local road system to get onto and off a nearby major motorway. On some journeys it serves as one’s entrance to a northward or a southbound carriageway, but on other occasions it is one’s exit – as is true of every juncture along life’s journey.

Birth was our first exit – from mother’s protective womb, but it was also our entrance into the world of the family circle. Then, our first day at school was a leaving home to go into the realm of education. And the Bible repeatedly presents a wedding as a bridegroom’s leaving of father and mother to enter the bonds of matrimony with his wife. The day of one’s retirement involves a further exit, this time from the pattern of schedules and salary, and one’s entrance into a less structured lifestyle, supported thereafter financially by one’s pension.

Life’s final exit

That last road sign indicating that Junction 21 is just ahead always gives me a buzz of joy, because I know that one mile from there, home welcomes me. The apostle Paul told his friends in Corinth that while he could happily visit them again in his aged, travel-worn, mortal body, he would prefer to arrive at ‘Exit 21’ in order to be ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:8). And the Lord would be delighted to welcome him in his homecoming, for: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints’ (Psalm 116:15).

Surely, the most triumphant arrival off ‘Exit 21’ in Scripture was that of the martyred Stephen.

‘He, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. … And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said that, he fell asleep’ (Acts 7:55-60).

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