I was driving home this evening and I was thinking about this question:
Are Christians today ready to go to heaven or hoping to?
I believe there is a difference and I believe that difference has a vast impact on how the two different groups behave and are perceived. Before I give my two cents on the subject, I would like to hear what you think on the subject.
Philippians, Chapter 1, has some application to this thought process… so I will give you that bit of help to get your cognitive processes engaged.
This is the second installment of my short story, Collecting Tears. These chapters are mostly rough drafts that I need to revisit and brush up, but I am posting them because they may push me to finish writing the story.
Chapter 2: Sweet Escapes
The spell of the scene was falling away and she was slowly returning to her sad reality. Life had been long but not so long that she was ready to be collecting the rewards that she had feared as a seven year old. Some things didn’t change. In fact, some things only worsened with age. She had always wondered what lay beyond the dusty shroud that separated this existence from the next. Wondering only increased her trepidation.
She clasped her vial tighter, thankful that it offered an alternative to the unknown. In those last moments, she would escape to her own comfortable reality – a lifetime that she had made for herself.
Being frightened caused her to grow angry – she shouldn’t be so fragile at this point in her life. Preparations had been made and carried out and there was no reason to fear now. She caressed the vial once again, needing to return to a place that would bring her joy. Yes, there were tears of joy here too.
She could smell the vegetable gardens that grew in everybody’s backyards. Victory gardens. She hated the fact that she had to spend hours a day weeding the rows of tomatoes, corn, and green beans. “Plant More In ’44” was posted on posters all over down town. When she looked at her broken finger nails full of dirt, she wanted to march along the streets and rip the hateful propaganda from its mocking edifice. Victory indeed. Seventeen and relegated to menial and meaningless labor.
The scent of the tomato leaves did nothing to soothe her mood. The air hung hot and heavy across the night like a wet blanket. She was going crazy with the heat. Even the crickets sounded sluggish outside her window. The moon was hidden causing the darkness to seem suffocating in the summer swelter. She bit her damp pillow case and screamed in frustration.
She could resist it no longer. Standing at the foot of her bed, she removed her night gown and stood naked against the window frame. There was no breeze to cool her skin, but getting the wadded up shift away from her body had made her think she felt cooler. Feeling cooler didn’t remove the stench of the garden that lay beyond her sill leaving her mood still curdled by the heat.
She wasn’t sure how long she had stared out at the stars, being serenaded by soggy crickets, before she noticed a small whisper of a wind playing among the ivy tendrils that grew around her frame. It teased her, calling her to come and play. Why couldn’t she have been a boy, then she could simply step out into the night and enjoy the sweat being dried off of her skin by the small breeze. No sooner had she thought it than she acted on it. Girls had a right to be cool, too.
Her bare feet hit the fresh turned soil that ran clear up to the base of the wall that held her window. She could feel small stones bite softly into her soles but she didn’t care. The sweat that was hidden by night’s dark cloak was being lifted off by gentle tugs of northern winds. It was more than refreshing, it was chilling. A shiver of excitement ran along her spine causing her to toss her hair as if she were a wild mare loosed on a vast prairie.
She took a few more timid steps into the night to taste the forbidden ecstasy of being unclothed in a world of that hid too much. Her fourth step brought her heel down on a ripening tomato. It popped deliciously. The sweet green smell that it released was fresh blood in the tank shark of her mood.
She gave into the desire, running up and down the rows of vegetables stomping tomatoes, throwing ears of corn, and ripping beans from their vines. It was heavenly. She smelled like soup and felt like a silver fox hunting her prey. She tipped her head back towards an invisible moon and yipped, a wild cub on the hunt. Tears flowed down her jaw line, falling to her bare breasts where she eventually trapped one in the crystal tube that hung always in her budding valley.
This is a short story titled Collecting Tears that I started about 3 years ago. There are several chapters in this work so I will post the first chapter today…
Chapter 1: Near the End
It had taken a life time but it was finally full. Trembling hands clutched a delicate crystal vial that rested against a bosom that rose and fell in shallow gasps. The final tear had come from Nelly, her long time nurse. It was a task that had nearly cost her the energy to continue breathing but one that had to be done never the less.
Why had the poor lass been so obstinate about holding her feelings in? An hour of story telling had finally broken Nelly’s resolve and she had let ocean waters streak down her face. A practiced brush of the child’s cheek had captured the precious liquid on a flattened nail where she could hide it until she sent the nurse away. Once she was alone, she had painstakingly collected that final material.
Now resting quietly, she had time to look back across the pages of time.
Her mother had christened the vial on her birthday some 87 years ago. Her first tear had rolled down her infant cheek and into the glass capsule coming to rest lonely on the bottom. Somehow that had saved the power of the moment and she was able to recall in vivid detail the moments before and after the capture of that single tear. Just by concentrating on the vial, she could draw on the pain and confusion that defined the passage of her life from the womb to the world. She could relive the searing despair of being removed from the umbilical and the lush caresses of her mother’s first kisses.
She always felt silly for wasting time on that first tear but she missed her mother more now at the end of her life than when she had lost her so many years ago. There was a tear in the vial for that day as well, but she wouldn’t let herself be drawn into that memory – no, they were more than memories. Each sweet dew drop represented life. Nothing less. To take a hold of the power they held was to be in their moment of life again.
She knew each tear and from whom they had come from. They were friends of delight and pain that she had visited with more times than she cared to remember.
The gray shadow of death was climbing closer about her but she held no fear. She was prepared for that final moment now that her collection was complete. With her last gasp she would swallow the contents of the crystal container and dance forever among their moments – each one so carefully harvested and saved for this day.
Until death got on with his business, she would enjoy calling on the power of a few more of her favorite collections.
There was one tear that was more powerful than all the others. It called to her when she slept – none of the others had ever done that. Just the one. She was careful to visit it on occasions when she was alone because it affected her so deeply to return to that moment.
She was seven years old. It was summer time outside the house, but winter seemed to hold sway inside on this day. She had woke up cold inside her bones even though it was quite warm. The only true break from the summer heat for the plantation house in 1927 were the large oaks that lent their shade to the gentle breezes that passed through screen covered windows.
Summer heat or no, she was shivering. She was sick.
Many of her neighbors had been sick as well. And many of them were now on to their eternal rewards – words her mother used to describe when someone had died.She wasn’t sure what eternal rewards were, but she knew she wasn’t in a hurry to be getting any. She climbed out of bed and stumbled to the bed pan that had been placed in her room since she hadn’t been feeling well. The cold porcelain made her shiver more harshly causing some spray to hit her calf. Mom wouldn’t be happy, but she used the hem of her night shirt to wipe her leg dry. The mere fact that she was thinking along those lines made her feel a little better. Maybe she wouldn’t be getting any eternal rewards anytime soon after all.
Her little brother slept in the room across the hall and she hurried to cross over to check on him. If she was feeling better, maybe he was feeling better too. Before she made it through his doorway, she could see her father sitting in the chair next to Bubby’s bed. She could only see his back but she could tell that he was sitting with his face in his hands. Every morning it was the same. Sometimes she felt jealous because he always spent time next to Bubby’s bed and so little besides hers. She had mentioned it to mother one night as she was being tucked in and had been told that her brother wasn’t as strong as she was and that her father was afraid for Bubby. That had shocked her because she had never seen her father be afraid of anything.
She stepped fully into the room and her father looked over his shoulder. She saw something this morning that she had never seen before either. Her father was crying.
She had collected her first tear while he had squeezed her in a tight hug. Her mother had turned the vial over to her just the previous week. Maybe its power came from that fact – that it had been her first. No, she knew the real reason. This was the only time her father had ever cried. The hug had hurt but somehow she had known that he needed to squeeze her hard because he couldn’t do so with her brother. Sometime that morning her Bubby had collected his eternal rewards whether he had wanted to or not.
80 years later she felt his warm tears splashing on her shoulder. She could feel the scratchy stubble that was rubbing her cheek raw and smell the cologne that he had put on the previous morning. His body had shook more than hers had when she was shivering from the sickness. More than anything though, she could feel the pain that tore her father’s heart apart.
Uncollected tears spilled fresh across time weathered cheeks lost in the power of this one greater tear.
I fancy myself a writer from time-to-time so I thought I would post one of my short stories. Maybe somebody will read it and enjoy it… and maybe not. 🙂
Mary limped along the forest path, her cane tip sinking slightly into the hard packed earth. She muttered to herself as she hobbled along, “Be vewy vewy qwiet. I’m hunting wabbit.”
She didn’t say it very loud. Actually the statements came out as more of a grunt through her labored breath.
Her slow-gaited swing eventually brought her to an old log that lay across the path. Without hesitating, she took her cane and banged it against the rough bark three times in over handed blows. The instant she lifted the cane from the last strike, a rabbit jumped from the open end of the trunk. Mary had speed that belied her physical appearance and she used it to good measure. She caught the rabbit in mid hop right behind the ears. Just as quickly as she had caught the small animal, her nails dug into the loose skin that surrounded the rabbit’s neck and with a quick jerk, twist, and tear the head was loosed from the body.
Mary turned around and headed back the way she had come now whispering, “Cook, cook! I have my hasenfeffer.”
It was a five minute shuffle for her to travel the hundred yards that separated the slaying field from the tree that she decorated with the heads of the animals that she caught. There were hundreds of skulls in varying forms of species and decomposition. They hung from the lower branches of the tree like a bizarre display of holiday cheer. She slipped a wire through the rabbit’s ears and tossed it over the point of an open twig, adding another bulb to her menagerie.
Everybody that used the road or sidewalk that ran along Mary’s property could take in the gruesome scene but there wasn’t anything they could do but shake their heads and quickly move on. The city held no jurisdiction over the property as it had been grandfathered under an old homesteader law that gave Mary protection to leave her yard in any state she felt satisfying. There had been many citizens disappointed by the answers to appeals to have the tree undecorated. Most people had just taken to calling the lady of the lawn, Mindless Mary, thinking she was crazy.
There was a story on how she had lost her foot that circulated around the downtown diners and barber shops. Most people believed the story and felt it held the secret to when Mary had started slipping a few gears.
Supposedly, as a child, she and a group of friends had decided to play hide-and-seek on a farm that had been left to grow over when the family that owned it could no longer afford to continue the upkeep. Mary had lowered herself over the edge of a well using her legs and back to prop herself against the lip. She hadn’t counted on one side of the wall giving way and sending her falling thirty feet to the bottom of the well. She had been knocked unconscious by the fall. Needless to say, the other children were unable to find her and had simply concluded she had headed home weary of the game.
Mary’s parents had been the type not to notice her coming and going and it was several days before they realized she was missing. It was another ten days before anyone thought to look down the well of the old farmstead. Two days before she was found, Mary had grown so hungry that she had began gnawing on her right foot. By the time she was found, the foot was infected and mutilated beyond what medical care could reverse. The foot was taken in order to save the leg.
It was her playmates that first noticed Mary was a bit off after the episode. 6 months after having her foot removed, she returned to school using the same cane she used to this day. Kids being kids, they asked the obvious question:
“How did that happen?”
To which she answered, “Playing hide-and-seek. I won and the prize was this stick.”
“But what happened to your foot?”, they would inquire.
“A girl’s got to eat”, was the matter-of-fact answer given with a shrug of the shoulders. “I heard the hollow soundings.”
Now, thirty years later, the rabbit was going to fill the latest wave of hollow soundings.
I haven’t posted in a while. Life has twists and turns and they take their impact on what can be accomplished in a day’s time. Tonight I am going to post some thoughts that I have had about the inability of humans to understand the concept of God’s holiness. I am not in bad company with my struggles to comprehend what that looks like. RC Sproul and AW Tozer are two men that I have turned to in my attempts to get a better grip of that concept and they have wrestled with that concept as well.
As creatures created by the Creator, we are left with but one perspective – that of fallible flesh grasping after the infallible.
We are used to describing things. I would say that it is a God-given call since He asked man (Adam) to name the animals. We naturally label things – we name them. The problem with our present abilities with describing things is that we contextualize our perceptions of the thing being described. Let me give you an example.
Imagine that you are walking down the street and you see a little girl eating an ice cream cone. A big, purple smile is painting her face as she eats the raspberry chip flavored delight that is in her hand.
It would be easy to describe the girl as being happy and that the happiness is a direct consequence of the ice cream. In the back of our mind, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine what would happen if the girl were to drop her ice cream on the ground. For the sake of the rest of my explanation on contextualization, let’s assume that we know the girl’s name is Susie.
Based on my hypothetical situation, I can propose the following issues with the human ability to understand God’s holiness.
- Qualify: We look for reasons why situations exist. With the Susie, we qualified her happiness by the presence of ice cream.
- Quantify: We expect that there are varying degrees to the state of things. Susie seemed to be extremely happy with the raspberry chip flavor, but would she have been as happy with vanilla?
- Transitional: We don’t expect things to stay the way they are. We understand that when the ice cream is gone, whether by accident or by consumption, that Susie’s happiness will dissipate. In the chance that it is an accidental loss, her transitional state may be extreme.
- Meaningless Labels: We accept and expect that some labels are non-descriptive. The girl’s name is Susie – a label that does not describe her. Its just a mechanism by which we can separate her from the girl next door.
No wonder it can be so hard to get our minds around the thought of God’s holiness… especially when it transcends our ability to contextualize.
God is holy. Period. His holiness does not have to be qualified. We don’t have to seek a reason behind His holiness.
His holiness doesn’t ramp up or down based on circumstances. It is an eternal, absolute state.
He cannot transition from holiness to some other aspect. In His love, He is holy. In His anger, He is holy. In His compassion, He is holy. And in His judgment, He is holy.
Finally, his holiness is not a meaningless label. We can’t limit Him by thinking of His holiness as a way to separate Him from the unholy gods. The most accepted definition of holy is Set Apart. And, He IS.
As I have studied this concept, I looked to the bible for insight and Exodus chapter 3 has lead me to believe that understanding the holiness of God is impossible without experiencing it. Read about Moses’ encounter with God through the burning bush and really look into what happens in those first 6 verses. Moses was 80 years old and well acquainted with the concepts of religion and God. but look for yourself at how he responded in verse 6 to the holiness of God.