“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries of this life.”
“Nothing accursed will be found there any more. . . . And there will be no more night; they need no light or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
Today’s scriptures—both the Gospel reading and the Epistle—speak of Christ’s second coming. The passage from Luke is Jesus telling his followers to be watchful, faithful, and resistant to wrong paths as they await his return. The Revelation passage talks of the promise of Christ coming again.
Now, I—like many of those brought up with images of a vengeful and judgmental God—find talk of the 2nd coming most uncomfortable. I have such a strong sense of the ugliness of separation from God, of someone I love or, for that matter, myself not being “ready.” Even trying to put this into words makes me struggle.
Do we have to talk about this? Couldn’t I work with another part of scripture? No… Okay, I’ll try…
Why am I so uncomfortable? I’m not truly sure. But, I think part of it may be because I KNOW I fall short—every day—of that which God would have me do. I become absorbed by the daily worries and dilemmas of my life. I’m short with a colleague, impatient with my husband or my son, or critical of another. I know, I know—I’m not alone. And, as an adult, I have come to know God in a way that transcends the vengeful images of my youth. Yet, when we start talking about the 2nd coming, all my old scripts emerge—virtually unscathed—and I find myself feeling inadequate and incapable of responding appropriately to these messages. Why?
That question kept haunting me—and then, the author’s word in a novel I just finished reading (Susan Howatch’s, The High Flyer) helped me to see, hear, and feel these words differently. (Sometimes God uses the most amazing methods to get our attention.)
In the novel, the lead female character—initially a non-believer--engages in a frightening and heavy struggle with evil and darkness as embodied in her new husband and those associated with him. Midway through this ongoing struggle, she is running from the overwhelming reality of evil, completely frightened and alone. She is literally running for her life from what she calls the “Powers.” And, then. . ., let me use her own words to describe her experience:
I found it helped to pretend I had an invisible companion. I said aloud to him: “Please beat back the Powers. Please lighten the darkness,” and the strange thing was that when I spoke these words I felt that someone was indeed falling into step beside me. I told myself this was mere wish-fulfillment—how would it be anything else?—but I was puzzled by the fact that my invisible companion was not at all as I would have wished him to be. Given the choice I would have hired a muscleman pumped high on steroids and toting a Kalshnikov, someone who could response to violence with violence, but I knew this stranger was quite unarmed. Moreover he was helping me not because he had been hired to do so but because he had been where I now was and he knew that what I needed most at the moment was companionship, encouragement, and the inspiration just to keep on keeping on when my world was in ruins, my body was exhausted, and my mind was so bruised that I hardly recognized it as my own.
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