For God so loved the world… You know how the rest goes. Eternal life etc. It’s the mantra of Christians everywhere, every-when.
We’re going to live forever in a perfect world, walking alongside God the Creator. Eternal life. Never ageing, let alone dying. Having a cuppa with the Creator. Never squabbling again with neighbour, sister, colleague, partner. Never afraid, frustrated or even bored.
Yep. That’s the glorious outcome of our power slogan…right?
Well, I don’t know about you, but sometimes instead of “hallelujah, amen!”, my response is more:
“That’s crazy talk…!”
There’s a blockage in my mind that just can’t conceptualise eternal perfection. How will that work? So much of the fabric of our everyday, the very threads that weave together our identity…these will become obsolete by all accounts. What will I be without them? Just a lobotomised version of me?
Now before anyone gets too worried (or depressed), let me just clarify – these thoughts come to me sometimes. And in other times, I am overflowing with joy and fulfilment that feels too great to contain within the confines of my body, impatience for heaven running electric through my veins.
So why the see-saw ride? Why does “eternal life” fill me with doubt and apprehension on the one hand, and on the other, an exuberant delight and expectation?
When I think of the former reaction, the “crazy talk” stance, I realise that I am obsessing over me. What will I be like? What bits of me will I lose?
But when I think of the latter reaction, I realise that it’s grounded in the thought of perfect communion with God: being known by Him, and knowing Him, in spirit and in truth. That phrase always fascinates and stimulates my imagination. Knowing God not just in spirit as we do now, but in truth. Whatever physicality / dimensionality that means, it’s mind boggling – in a good way.
And as for losing “me” – well, turns out that that’s already been happening…and it’s no bad thing. I was having a rather frustrating conversation with someone very close to me recently. They were just being so judgmental and lacking in compassion, and I just didn’t get it. I mean, this is a “nice” person. A generous person. Even though they aren’t Christian, I thought surely they should have a deeper level of empathy and care for their fellow human beings. I mean, it’s only natural, right?
And it only struck me later on when I was wallowing in resentment towards this person that actually, no, it’s not natural. In fact, the more commonly accepted train of thought, the “wisdom of the day” would be the opposite: look out for number one.
It’s been such a long time since I believed that, but I did, once upon a time. Then I met God. And that transformation, that renewing of mind that Paul refers to in Romans started happening. Slowly, gradually, so that I didn’t realise I was “losing” anything. Rather I was gaining. Gaining so much. Clear vision, to see the good around me. Power to weigh this good properly against the bad without the instinctive bias towards the negative that human beings are programmed with. Conviction to add more good into the balance wherever possible.
These are all changes I never sought, and I am beyond grateful to have received such unasked for wealth.
So when I am on the downswing of the see saw and scared of losing myself beyond those pearly gates, maybe I just need to look back on what was, look on what is, and look forward to what will be.