Writing that last post was fun. I enjoy focussing on the positive. But as I wrote in the post before it, life is not full of positives and an optimist is sometimes pressed to keep a smile in place.
No need to go into details here and now, but life is still very challenging. Is there a point to such challenges?
I think so.
When life is difficult, faith in an afterlife is comforting.
Before you read any further it is important you keep one thing in mind: I’m a fool. I think a lot, I read a lot, and I put ideas together in odd ways. The chances that I am right is extremely remote. But if you are willing to take what I say with a sack of epsom salt, read on.
Psychologically beneficial or not, I know the afterlife to be real. In fact, I believe in eternity. (Eternity is not the same as the afterlife.) When I die I will shuffle off this mortal coil, this corporeal trap and spread spiritual wings to soar through perpetuity. It will be a realm different than the one I have known, and different than the one that existed before the Lord created our world, our species.
What was Heaven like before we existed? What was it like for the angels before The Fall? What perspective might powers and principalities and dominions and all beings who danced in the eternal radiance of the love of the Triune God have had?
Imagine the scope of their existence!
Our lives are measured in heart beats, the mad scramble of the sun across our skies, the seasonal wobble of gyrating stars. If we are imaginative we can picture longer stretches of time. We can appreciate the dance of galaxies as they rotate four times each billion years. We can deduce the gonging of galactic clusters (B flat, 57 octaves below middle C) as they pulse each 100 thousand years.
How does a being who experiences such a pace of living see the universe? See us?
I would think creating humanity shook things up quite a bit.
Beings which existed before there was physical matter, before there were stars and planets and atoms... beings which contemplated eternity while existing in a realm without the cycles of seasons and epochs... before things swam and crawled and flew, before things consumed and excreted and reproduced... these beings existing in realms of pure beauty and joy would be amazed when suddenly the Lord creates, us.
Mayflies adopted into the eternal family.
Stumbling through The Garden we learned to be selfish, to put ourselves first. These beings must have wondered about this strange new thing, these human beings. Imagine the purity of their lives interrupted by this drama of creatures endowed with an immortal soul within the shell of an animal body, and given mental facilities so they may decide and plan and choose.
I suspect this may have been the reason Lucifer stormed away from those eternal halls. Imagine beings with billions of serene years of experience suddenly faced with the inclusion of creatures that were born!
I can imagine an angelic pride smiting under the offensive concept of rubbing spiritual shoulders with creatures that are nearly animals. I can imagine the indignation of an entity of titanic beauty and grace deeply offended by the proposal that beings which slipped into the universe screaming and squawking be permitted into that august company. I can imagine the argument that we are so inherently corrupt that we could never have a place there.
I can imagine the view that humanity is so tainted that even the Lord God Himself would succumb to sin if He were to inhabit a human body. Why else would Satan think he could tempt our Lord Jesus?
Why would God do this? What is the point of all of this, this world where people do selfish things? Hurtful things? A place where people weep and suffer and die... A place of active forces which erupt, and crush, and wash away entire communities.
Could it be that living in such a world, a mortal existence which permits bad choices, allows bad things, lends a dimension to our souls unique to eternity? In short, suffering adds texture to our souls.
What a wonder it must have seemed to all those wondrous beings to see the triune God creep into this realm of sorrow through the body of a young woman and watch Him grow and love and suffer and die! What a wonder it was.
What a wonder it is.
For eternity is not the sort of thing we see it as. We live in a space-time continuum, an experience that forces us to see time as a one dimensional current that drags us all in the direction of entropy.
Eternity existed before the universe, and will continue to do so after our universe is cold cinders drifting into an expanding endless end. Eternity exists outside of time, outside of space.
I am undeserving of living within such a reality. We all are. It is no wonder we are told we cannot see the face of God and live. We are simply not built of such strong stuff. We are not worthy.
When Jesus answered that rich man about how he might earn eternal life, He started by asking him how well he obeyed the commandments.
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Mark 10:19-20
Don’t we all feel pretty pleased with ourselves when we think about the majority of those commandments? I’ve never murdered, I love God...
But the Lord kept pushing until He got to the place where the rich man’s heart truly rested, his wealth.
I imagine this fellow thought he was pretty special, and that he was doing something extraordinary, offering to follow the Lord, and thereby placing his resources behind Jesus.
Jesus told him to toss it all aside.
That is a tough call, and one Jesus is asking me, asking all of us, to do.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mark 10:25
I think that living this mortal life toughens us up spiritually. I am not living comfortably in this vale of sorrow. I keep praising my God, loving what is good, but often the sorrows of life, that swinging pendulum, just makes it all a little wearying.
But this life provides me with the spiritual challenges to make my soul strong, wiry. It is good spiritual exercise for me, because though I do not deserve the forgiveness and blessings my Lord grants me, I am heading into eternity with experiences that angels and powers and dominions have not had. I will have character that only sadness and sorrow can bring.
I may not ever be a mighty spiritual being, but I know I am shedding spiritual pounds, leaning up, honoring my creator, accepting His challenges.
How else could this fat man crawl through the eye of that eternal needle?