The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of busy, mostly the lovely sort of busy like coffee with friends, late nights playing games, and a trip to somewhere warm. In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day describes certain inspired moments she had as a child:
Whenever I felt the beauty of the world in song or story, in the material universe around me, or glimpsed it in human love, I wanted to cry out with joy.I've shied away from writing because I have felt so much like a better version of my 13 year old self. Not that I'd ever want to be that age again. The horror! But I have felt the overwhelming desire to cry out with joy lately, like one of my students when they crush on some boy at school. And frankly, that kind of girlish delight is just downright undignified and embarrassing for a woman of my age. There's no way I would write about that kind of silliness.
Don't get me wrong, my life is hard. Like HARD hard. Like single mom, want to send my kid to granny's house and hop the first plane back to Costa Rica and live in a hut on the beach selling coconut water forever kind of hard. I weep often. Not just your shed a tear, woe is me kind of sniffling, but the full on I'm ready for heaven kind of ugly cry. All the time.
Best description of Hell I've ever read: (From ND Wilson's, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl)
God is kind and reserves a place for those who loathe Him to the end, an eternal exile, a joyless haven for those who would eternally add to their guilt, a place where blasphemy will be new every morning. A place less painful and less terrible than the alternative. Unless you change, Heaven, the Shekinah, the close presence of that burning Holiness, the presence of the creator God and the face of the exalted Word, the winds and fire of that storm of joy would be a worse hell than Hell itself, a worse burning than any figurative (or literal) flames. In the end there will be no escaping Hell because all else will be Heaven. There will be no need for walls or chains or any kind of cell, because Hell will be that place farthest away from His smell. A place you will hate but have no desire to leave .Wow. Earlier in the book he rants:
Why do Christians think of purity, holiness, and even divinity as something with big eyes and soft fur? Why do we so often ignore the beautify in exchange for the cute? (several pages later) Holiness is terrible. It comes with the whirlwind. It is a purifying fire. We are not the first Christians to trivialize the cherubim. We are not the first to make things soft on our imaginations and comfortable in our dreams.Holiness is terrible. It is a purifying fire. To be unmade in its flames is a terrifying thing indeed. I can tell many stories of myself and others shrinking away from it, pulling back as it draws near, hiding under the bed when it breaks in through the window. The ways we have of wriggling out form under God's purifying thumb are absolutely astounding, but holiness is relentless. It hunts, it devours, it stalks, but if you run away long enough, it may just leave you alone.
I had a chance to try surfing for he first time last week. I'm pretty lousy, but I loved it.
Our pastor is speaking through Hebrews this year, and he began with Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Perseverance that comes from fixing your eyes on Christ is the central theme in Hebrews. Few things in this world will teach you about perseverance like trying to learn how to surf. Try to get your board out in the waves, get knocked over, nearly drown, paddle around a while, try to stand up, fall over, choke on salt water, gag, then do it all again. If you can't make the connection between surfing and life, then I don't think we can be friends because my life is a whole lot like surfing, and not the Mavericks Invitational, I make this look easy kind of surfing. No. My life is more like the Lord have mercy on that old lady trying to stand up on a surfboard, somebody rescue her before she kills someone, kind of surfing.
But that is what holiness does to a sinful soul like mine. It knocks me over, nearly drowns me, makes me gag, wears me out, leaves scabs on my elbows, and salt water in my sinus cavities and then has the nerve to tell me to get out there and try it again without any promises it's going to get easier or I'm going to look better trying.
Wilson's thoughts on heaven:
Heaven will be wonderful (understatement). It will be more wonderful than we can imagine, even if our imaginations weren't so stunted by marshmallow visions. You will have a body more physical than this one. Heaven will be hard and bright, and the winds will be strong. You will have the body and the eyes and the purified, well-aged soul to bear it. We will remake this world with blistered hands.…Do not resent your place in the story. Do not imagine yourself elsewhere. Do not close your eyes and picture a world without thorns, without shadows, without hawks. Change this world. Use your body like a tool meant to be used up, discarded, and replaced. Better every life you touch. We will reach the final chapter. When we have eyes that can stare into the sun, eyes that only squint for the Shekinah, then we will see laughing children pulling cobras by their tails and hawks and rabbits playing tag….But we cannot reach the final chapter by dreaming, by holding our collective breath and staring at an unshaded acrylic escape painting. The only road to that final chapter began at the garden and led into the wilderness. It runs through these chapters. Live now. Relish the tensions, the challenges, and laugh at the petty pains….The problem of evil brings its own strength. We do not need to strengthen it by imagining perfection to be cross-stitch and cookies and… kittens. The world is already more wonderful than we can imagine. Heaven will be better still.Heaven will be hard and bright and the winds will be strong. But I, yes, I will have the purified, well-aged soul bear it all because I am being unmade and remade in the furnace of holiness. I am being knocked over and nearly drowned, but I am still getting back up to try again, no matter how ugly the last fall was. I can weep, but not without laughing. I can mourn, but not without dancing.
Unless we are changed, we will fear the burning presence of a holy God more than eternal exile. One day recently I woke up to the reality that I am being changed. I am being made into a new creation. And if I feel a little giddy, like a school girl with a crush, well, then so be it.