Have you ever sat on the edge of eternity?
By edge of eternity I mean: that space of days and hours before someone steps out of this life.
Have you ever sat there with someone?
That vulnerable place is a painful privilege, one I’ve had only a few times in my life. There is something sacred about it – distinctly different. High contrast from the rest of the days and hours we breathe.
This time, I watched the man I love sit there with his father.
It makes me pause.
Strange thing it is, death. We spend so much energy resisting and controlling our lives away from it’s edge, but it always comes. You can hardly blame us, living is hardwired in.
Death is not very often a conscious fear though, is it? Our fears are more sophisticated in our (generally) civilized and predictable western lives.
Instead, we worry about what we make. What we eat, what we drive. What we wear. The germs we share.
Not that giving those things thought is bad, it’s well and good. But where is the line between thought and fret?
If I’m honest, I’ve never been more afraid of dying than I am today. Not for fear of my future, but my children’s future. I’m far from a perfect mother but my heart aches just at the thought of my babies growing up without theirs. I have no immediate reason to worry about this other than… eventually… it will be my time.
We don’t dwell on death
It feels unnatural, almost unhealthy, to dwell on death. Instead, most days we live with the blinds down on eternity.
It’s too complicated. Too controversial. Too nuanced and unknowable.
Until it’s not. Until we’re sitting at the edge of it with someone and we see it. Eternity. Well, we don’t see it. We see it’s mystery and majesty and immanence and uncertainty.
But there’s one certainty; eternity is there.
We can mute it or ignore it, but eternity never goes unnoticed. Eventually, the blind gets yanked and the glare of eternal possibility blinds us.
One day, we will stop breathing here. And eternity is there.
But what is eternity? Is it nothing? Atoms and molecules of our bodies turned to dust? An individualized self-actualized existence? A whole other world, or one intertwined with this one?
Everything from “achieving nirvana” to “heaven and hell” to “we have no soul to begin with,” the ideas range far and wide.
Where do we look for eternity?
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I celebrate your curiosity. Doubt is welcome here.
“Doubt is simply someone sincerely seeking the truth.” –Ben Hilson
So, I don’t know if what I am about to suggest will sound air-fairy hocus-pocus or if it will strike a cord of hope somewhere in you. But I pray the later.
Someone once claimed he was going to die. Which I think we can all claim pretty confidently. But he didn’t just say he was going to die, he said he was going to die and come back alive three days later.
He said he was going to do this to “conquer” death. How exactly does one conquer death??
I’m going to try really hard to simplify something that shouldn’t be too simplified. The mysterious complexity deserves exploring – for now, here goes…
Great Love waits for us in eternity.
This is my proposal.
A loving, merciful and just God waits for us. He is so powerful, so pure, so perfect, so completely made of love that any impurity or darkness simply cannot exist in His presence. He is just. So. Good. Any bad just gets obliterated.
Let me state the obvious… I am far from perfect.
The parts of my heart and soul that hurt me and others are definitely not perfect. I screw up. I have faults. An old word for that is sin. No matter what I do, I don’t measure up to my own best version of myself, let alone God’s actual perfection.
We work hard to find ourselves and be ourselves and embrace our true selves… and that is good. But I — in and of myself — am a dead end. We are a dead end. A finite creature. With a beginning and an end.
At the bottom of myself is an actual end… mental, physical, emotional, even spiritual… I end. I cannot know everything. I cannot do everything. I cannot read your mind. And I cannot die and come back alive.
More importantly, despite my very best intentions, I can’t do what I think I ought to do. I lash out at my kids. I am afraid to tell the truth. My gut reaction is to hide my faults because… somehow… I think they ought not to be.
Even if I succeed in finding my best and truest self, I am finite. I have an end. My true self does not save me from my endings or faults.
We are mortal. We are finite.
If there is a God — He must be all that we are not, and more.
No person is that kind of pure or perfect.
But we kind of long for that perfection, don’t we? We long for justice, for knowledge, for control, for clean and pure, for forever-relationships. For better. For good.
It’s like there’s something in us that knows…
“If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy I can only conclude I was made for another world.” – CS Lewis
A perfect person?
There was one perfect person, according to the witnesses of his life.
The subject of Jesus as a person without fault and also as God is a mystery worth wrestling with – but way more than I can cover in a single post. (Mark Clark has a new book out called “Problem of Jesus” that I can’t wait to read.)
I’m not sure what you think about who Jesus is. Maybe you’re skeptical that he told the truth… or that scripture tells the truth… or maybe you’re not even sure what he said. If that’s you, I understand. If that’s you, can we pause for a minute and experiment? Can we wonder – just for a minute – what if Jesus is who he said?
At least, that’s what witnesses saw...
If you’re not sure this is even true, I get that. Keep going with me just for doubt’s sake?
If there really is a God that is perfect Love, what does it mean?
If Jesus really did die and come back alive, what does it mean?
Try this thought experiment...
Alternate reality. What if Jesus is not who he said?
Let’s play out eternity with this perfect God, but without a perfect Jesus. What happens?
If God is omnipresent, then He is everywhere.
If God is omniscient, then He knows everything.
If God is omnipotent, then He is all-powerful.
And if God is love and good and pure and just…
How does one like me, an imperfect person, exist in eternity? How can I exist with this everywhere, everything, always-perfect all-powerful Love? God is all the good I am not.
I hope I’m not losing you.
Please don’t miss this part.
How can my imperfection exist in His perfection?
If Jesus is who he said he is, I think that is how an imperfect person like me can exist in His perfection.
Jesus is perfect. A faultless human, and fully God.
As that perfect person, he went first to make a new way for us. Then invited us to follow.
Jesus said “follow me.” and then went to the cross.
Jesus said “my burden is light” and then went to the cross.
Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me” and then went to the cross.
Of course, the cross wasn’t the end. He actually did what he said he would do.
Death could not hold him. He overcame it, he conquered it.
If someone can predict their own death and resurrection and then pull it off, I’m listening to that guy. (As Andy Stanley loves to say and I love to echo)
We surrender ourselves there just as he surrendered himself, and he shows us a new way to live.
I realize how crazy this can sound. No need to check your head at the door on this, there is logic and reason to drill into here. In this moment, I want to talk to the heart.
Eternity will come.
One day, you and I will meet eternity.
Whether the end of our life includes our best, truest self or not, our life will end.
I believe Jesus meets us at our ends; faults, flaws and all. Better yet, he saves and heals us at our ends — both in this life and the next.
We don’t need to wait for eternity to follow, surrender and heal in Jesus’ love.
He didn’t come for the those living their best life, but for those struggling to. He didn’t come for those that found their true selves, he came for those looking.
Jesus wants to give us our best life. In Him. He wants to show us our true selves. In Him.
Jesus sees our true selves, and he loves us anyways, and he offers to heal all those dead ends.
You and I are invited to follow him in this life, to the end of ourselves, and into eternity.
I really believe Jesus arose with new life in his hands. In this life, he asks us only to believe and receive it, not to achieve it.
We don’t have to wait for eternity to embrace it.
Admit we don’t have it all together, see our imperfections for what they are; faults that hurt us, others and our Creator. Ask Jesus to forgive us and rethink our way by asking Jesus to show us a new way.
We simply need to surrender our actual true selves to Jesus.
All eternity will rejoice.
And the journey just begins.
At least, that’s my proposal.
My hope for the future
I long for things to be better; right.
I wish for no pain or suffering. Or tears or goodbyes.
I wish no one hurt anyone and children were safe and illness didn’t exist and death wasn’t a thing.
I believe in that kind of eternity. An eternity with perfect Love.
Because Jesus promised – he will make all things new.
For now, we’re invited into the transformation part.