Heaven is important but it's not the end of the world

Thursday 22 May 2008

The concept of heaven is much less interesting to me than the concept of a renewed earth. This earth that sings to me under my feet, perhaps part of its song is redemption songs, songs about what it's going to do and be when it grows up, when God finally gets to do what he has been so eager to do, and we will be gobsmacked and probably silent for about half an hour :)

You know that New Testament verse that says we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies? I wonder what that one's all about? When I think about the verse that talks about a new heavens and a new earth, a renewed place where heaven has actually come on down to live on earth, God with us, Emmanuel ... well, it conjures up pictures of the heavenly me rushing around Back to the Future style trying to avoid the earthly me :)

I've been listening to NT Wright. Can you tell? I have been desperate for some hope today. Hope. It's the thing that keeps me going when I remind myself that all of this suffering I'm going through is for a purpose. It's easy to forget. Mr Wright is one of those people that just opens up the vistas for me, reconnects me to the sense of wonder that is always there really, if I can reach for the strands and let it pull me through to wonder. Sometimes that's just too hard but still, the wonder still sits even if I cannot see it or feel it, or God, and all I can see is what I'm feeling and it makes me lose my focus, and sometimes scares me that I'll lose my mind along with it ;)

Bishop Wright was talking about his new book Surprised by Hope, which I haven't read but hope to, and which Rob Horton has read and liked very much. Here is a portion of the book which Rob posted:
This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are – strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself – accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God (p. 208)
How awesome a reminder that is in these days of reeling to and fro like a drunk on a rollercoaster, when it feels like I am accomplishing very little of anything much at all. Hope. That we are building for his kingdom, not building his kingdom, as Wright says. The distinction between those two makes all the difference in the world. It means that everything belongs, everything fits, in this crazy little scenario we find ourselves in, hurtling from birth towards death, wondering what the hell it's all for at times. Everything belongs. Everything belongs.

Maggie Ross (first seen over at Mike's Mercy Blog), reminds us that sometimes, on our very worst days, our left hand may be doing things our right hand has no idea about, things which will astonish us when we see them weaved into God's new creation:

There are as many ways of intercession as there are moments of life. Intercession can become deep and habitual, hidden even from our selves. There is nothing exotic about such practice. What matters is the intention that creates the space and the stillness. Even something as simple as refusing to anesthetize the gnawing pain in the pit of your soul that is a resonance of the pain of the human condition is a form of habitual intercession. To bear this pain into the silence is to bring it into the open place of God’s infinite mercy. It is in our very wounds that we find the solitude and openness of our re-creation and our being. We learn to go to the heart of pain to find God’s new life, hope, possibility, and joy. This is the priestly task of our baptism.

Maggie Ross, The Space of Prayer III post

This post is encouraging me even as I put it together. These are necessary things to remind myself of when I feel like my life is counting for very, very little, or that I am "doing" it badly or, as is the case lately, that long-repressed hurts are spilling out the sides, terribly embarrassing as they hit the air, trying to tempt me to shame.

Everything belongs, and everything counts. I believe that. It is why I am inclined at times to rise above the pain like a woman in childbirth, clench my teeth and thank him for what's going on, no matter the pain, no matter the tears, because whatever is happening to me is leading me towards him, is creating further rooms in myself where he can shine out of instead of my shame. And I believe that, and yet it spills away so quickly when a storm of emotions pours in. But still, it beats within the heart of that storm. And it's counting for something. And so is the storm.


  1. This is beautiful Sue. I know what you mean about shame...it's a booger.

    Here's something for you:
    "Do you know that lovely fact about the opal? hat, in the first place, it is made only of desert dust, sand, silica, and owes its beauty and preciousness to a defect. It is a stone with a broken heart. It is full of minute fissures which admit air, and the air refracts the light. Hence its lovely hues, and that sweet lamp of fire that ever burns at its heart, for the breath of the Lord God is in it."

    ~Ellice Hopkins

    God is glorified in you. Really, He looks beautiful through your cracks.

  2. Oh, Jennifer, that is really so beautiful. Thank you so much.

    So you go all day giving to your family, and you get some peace and quiet at 4am :) and you come and you give to me. Thank you. Speaking of rocks - you do :)

  3. I wish I could see how this is any kind of comfort to the thousands in China whose lives have been devastated by the earthquake.

  4. Well, okay then, GFN what do you suggest? I'm having enough trouble keeping my own head above water at the moment without taking an entire country onto my shoulders.

    I'm trying to hang onto some sort of smidgeons of hope that God is going to make everything right even despite the horrible things happening in China. The alternative for me is going and gassing myself in my car

  5. Sorry Sue. Just trying to broaden the discussion.

  6. Alright. I'm sorry I got snitchy. I don't imagine it would be much comfort when you're right in the midst of death and destruction and mourning, except if you really believed it and then I imagine it probably would be some kind of comfort in the midst of it all, to know that this is not the end of the story.

    But of course the question of why God would allow suffering to that extent is I guess a diferent question.

  7. That was a low blow. Heaping on the guilt won't help the Chinese. I don't think they mind if we carry on with our normal lives and send aid. If they were living their normal day to day right now, they might be on the computer writing out their thoughts while the victims of other natural disasters cope.

    We all care about the suffering in the world, but we can't make it all better on our own!

  8. I was responding to what Sue said about building for the kingdom and in that context, to Wright's words: "everything belongs, everything fits, in this crazy little scenario we find ourselves in, hurtling from birth towards death, wondering what the hell it's all for at times. Everything belongs. Everything belongs."
    I genuinely have difficulty seeing where natural disasters such as the Chinese earthquake fit into this 'everything'.

  9. Ah yes, that is a hard one. Thank you for clarifying...it's a challenge sometimes to receive communication effectively through this medium.

    I think Sue brought it down to the bottom question of why God alows suffering...that's a huge conversation. :)

  10. GFN - I don't know how it fits. Saying everything belongs doesn't automatically mean everything is good or right. But I think even the bad and wrong have a purpose, shall be redeemed, shall have their own tears wiped away. Which is completely no help right now, except for maybe being a propellent and a vision for those who are helping. But no, I don't have a grand answer to why all of that fits in either. Nevertheless, I think it all does.

    Theodicy - surely the biggest, greatest question of all, huh?

  11. PS: Those were my words, not Wright's :)


Newer Older