Very few of us know the exact moment of our own death. I am not sure I would want to know the exact moment. I think that knowledge would change me. And I have no idea of knowing what that change would be. Not unless I was given the date and time and second. And then whatever change happened might never be undone. My life and living between now and then would be different. And I suspect not in a better way. I know myself well enough to suspect an extended pity-party.
I read of those who almost died. Who now see living each day as being given a second chance. Not to be wasted. Living that is now giving. And the sceptical me wonders just how long they will be able to keep that up.
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. ‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:42-51
I am not a fan of these verses for one simple reason. They change me. Or might that be that I allow these verses to change me. And not in a good way.
It makes my journey as “a follower” too much like work and obligation and duty. It makes God (and Jesus, bless Him) too much like the vindictive God. It’s like I have to be on duty 24/7 for ever! And because of that duty and being a good Christian these verses then must exclude so much!
(not) Being ill! (not) Being depressed! (not) Having a doubting Thomas patch. (not) Seeing all this Church stuff as so often institutionally damaging to God. (not) Just having fun for fun’s sake. (not) Having the most blistering argument ever and being unsure if the damage will ever be repaired. (not) Spending hours of contemplation and reflection on “what’s the point?” (not) Waking up one day and thinking “I am not speaking to you God – I am not in the mood!” (not) Not reading endless theology books trying to find “the answer.” (not) Being too naked in front of the mirror with God. (not) Being too much of a work in progress in case I get “the timing” wrong. (not) Being honest with myself or others. (not) Living each moment in the moment in case I miss being nice to someone. (not) Living in the moment in case someone is not nice to me and I can’t forget the slight! (not) Living in the moment because I lose control over what I want to be, should be, ought to be. Not living in the moment and then finding I have wasted my life worrying about what others might think, what others might say, what others have said, and what others have thought.
I am not a fan of these verses because they change me. They cause me to fear “missing” something and failing the test of God. The one we must pass if we are to be admitted through the Gates of Heaven. They cause me to see salvation as within my control.
And they cause me to recognise how deeply ingrained all this religious “voodoo and superstition stuff” really is. These verses make me see me – totally naked.
I “know” there is no test – that my salvation is not earned – my forgiveness through grace – my joy through simply living – my living inclusive of pain and sorrow – tears as well as laughter – my God as real as the keyboard tapping these words. I know.
Now let’s talk DNA. Cultural and religious and church DNA.
The stuff I was born into, grew up with, was exposed to, was taught, was tested-on in Sunday school (UK version: “Junior Church” – scissors and glue and sparkles and performance art with the Sunday School’s teacher’s “God and bible” thrown-in because that is “Sunday School”). And then a Christian home (sorry Mum and Dad): this is how you pray (hard on the knees), this is how you read the bible with someone else’s notes (because “Quiet Time” is a solo activity), here is why we read the bible (again) together at breakfast time (when I am starving and want some toast and jam), this is when we go to church – even on Christmas morning (when all those presents are begging to be opened?) – and THIS is why I feel guilty all the time because this is “God” we are talking about. But emotionally?
He and me never ever got started. There never was “relationship” at home, at church or at school – “love” was just a word that meant nothing because God was just another authority figure – another “this is what you have to do because I say so”. And then – like so much I was told to do as a child – I became a teenager, and knew better – God was irrelevant (unless I was so scared I did the universal “if you save me I will … ” deals).
What I found out later was that both me and God waited. The early “DNA” included the “fact” that God waited – he was eternal and infinite after all. But emotionally? Nahhh … Not then. Relationship was never included in that early DNA. Love was just another word of duty and obligation. Another rule.
So even now I am not a fan of these verses. They change me. At a level so deep that my DNA is “changed”. I can choose that to be intellectual reinforcement of burden and obligation. Or I can choose to see unconditional love. I live by the latter nowadays.
Because this “new DNA” allows me the freedom to tell God I don’t like these verses much – and then find out together with Him why I do.
Cheers God – another cuppa?