Saturday, January 20, 2018

all the way to heaven

"'Mama,' he answered her, 'do not weep, life is paradise and we are all in paradise, but we do not want to know it, and if we did want to know it, tomorrow there would be paradise the world over.'"
The Brothers Karamazov, Book VI, Chapter 2.

As I sat among strips of paper containing wisdom, laughter, and love: I thought: this is heaven. It is heaven to be surrounded by tangible reminders of relationship and belonging. One small strip offered a quote—which I now cannot remember verbatim—but said something along the lines of how having a complete life means to allowing ourselves to acknowledge our own incompleteness.

As I ran through the snow, pondering the people on my heart today, it struck me, as it has many times before, but this time with emphasized force, that Christ did not come to offer life in abundance in some post-mortem future, but to offer us abundant life here and now. What is abundant life? I wondered what it means to live life "abundantly," and it occurs to me, as I run through a quiet, frozen morning, that it means to live heaven on earth. On this snowy run, it seems possible that heaven is right now.

Certainly, yes, we will still suffer affliction. We will wrestle with broken relationships we cannot reconcile, we will make many mistakes, those we love will still hurt us, we will find ourselves incapable of finding the right words, we will close ourselves off to peace many times over, or choose our own selfish will over grace, we will not let perfect love cast out our fear of stepping outside ourselves. We will continue for years to try to learn how to love a friend, each season bringing new challenges, the elusive goal of stasis slipping out of our hands like a live salmon. We will make the same stupid mistakes repeatedly, stumbling towards living as the person we were called to be. We will discover fresh insecurities, tightly embedded vices, sordid, suffocating habits to wrestle with, the deeper we dig in our hearts. We (I) will constantly repent of rash, impulsive decisions, and continue to make them. I will trust someone with myself and be met with misunderstanding or contempt. I will struggle to understand boundaries, privacy, or how to handle myself with composure in public.

In short, life is still that teeming, chaotic dance named life. It's still messy, full of sin, bumps-n-bruises, and the (painfully) slow, spiraling growth of learning. I imagine that part of this business of heaven-on-earth, of the-End-of-All-Things-here-in-our-midst-on-earth is acknowledging that something is present here which we are already a part of, yet not fully enveloped in.

But the kingdom of heaven is close at hand, not far off. The rumblings of heaven are already rustling beneath the shifting sands of our daily life. The seedlings of heaven are already sprouting underneath the snow. The more I run through the perfect sunshine glistening off the smooth, fresh snow, each time I contemplate kind words exchanged between true friends, trying to love each other more than self, I am convinced that the radiant material which makes up the burning core of our lives is the same exact substance which makes up eternal joy. 

God offers God's own self to us, we enter into relationship (imperfectly, oh so imperfectly) with the saints who surround us, and we can, for a moment choose to live with that complete, sacred obeisance towards the other, in such a way that we catch a glimpse of the one eternal moment in which God is all-in-all.

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