that the world might be saved through him


I see what you’re saying, church sign, and forgive my incessant contrary ways, but must I really think about heaven tonight? It seems a little insolent, doesn’t it? Tonight, driving over the dam, I looked down at the Chattahoochee wreathed in delicate fog, trees straining over the water to catch the amber dusk-light reflected in clouds the pink of dogwoods – tell me, where should I have asked to be?

There’s precedent for it, you know, losing heaven for the world. The Word dwelt among us for thirty years; he didn’t seem to be in much of a rush to get back there. I figure he could’ve done the whole dying-rising-and-ascending thing in 22, 23 years tops, even with all the preaching he had to get done. Might there not have been something about this place that intrigued him? Enthralled him, even? I don’t know if they have dogwoods in Jerusalem, but sunsets, certainly, and really good olive oil and cool breezes on hot days and friends for whom prayers just tumble out of you because you couldn’t help it if you wanted to, they’re all just so beautiful. These things you could miss if you weren’t paying attention or were trying too hard not to be clichéd, all the joy pointing back to the grace woven throughout – could these be what he meant when he called creation “good”?

I know what you probably meant, church sign; you were probably trying to exhort me to abandon my sinful worldly pursuits in order to attain the reward of eternal life. Not a dishonorable goal, and yet kosmos – world – is such a complicated Greek word, if you’ll excuse my exegesis. Makes it hard to talk about the “world” in English when John tells us we can’t love the world, and tells us God so loved the world. I want to love what my Father loves, isn’t that allowed? I hope so; I hope John means I can’t idolize the world. I hope it’s forgivable to want to run headlong into the world because yes, I’ve seen evil and darkness, how they warp what is good, and if I could I would brandish a sword against those powers that revel in what is ugly and shameful but I will settle for brandishing love and light without fear in the face of so much willful destruction. I hope.

I hope, and hope, and hope, not because I am naive, but indeed because I am a child. I am a child of God, adopted in spite of my own hatred and my mountains of failures, and I can hope like a child only because my Father is so very big. He is bigger than my own hopeless state and bigger than the Fall; I know he has a plan to put things aright, whole and good again. Not for any reason. I just know my Father.

I am still so charmed by the shiny simple things; I hope you’ll excuse me for wondering whether heaven isn’t mostly a place for angels, and earth a place for men like Christ. Let me pray every so often that the new heaven and the new earth find me on the earth side of things. Allow me the wild youthful optimism, foolishness if you wish, of believing the world will yet be redeemed.


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  1. jharader

     /  June 14, 2012

    This is beautiful. Having just come home from two glorious days of camping, it resonates deeply with me. Thank you.

    • Thank you, ma’am. My own weekend in the Smokies was in the back of my mind, too. I hope your trip was restorative!


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