I say doorway to eternity. I don’t mean the doorway into a funeral home parlor in which someone is laid out under a massive display of flowers. Nor do I mean the doorway into the embalming room in the funeral home’s basement. Nor do I mean the doorway into the morgue. Nor do I mean the doorway into the autopsy room. Nor do I mean the doorway into the dying room—the room in which someone is dying.
While all of these doorways may be instructive places to hang out and may be salutary in their own way, what I am talking about is the doorway to eternity. The doorway into God’s holy presence. Into the peace and rest only God provides us.
Many of us stumble around as believers. We are random mystics rather than systematic mystics. We seem to randomly happen upon God and are. Well. Surprised. Surprised? Yes, we Christians. Many of us. Are surprised to discover that God is with us after all. God is right around here somewhere after all.
And death provides us an extraordinary opportunity to find ourselves walking or sitting or merely being in complete solitude. Complete and singular solitariness. Naked to the cosmos. Naked to the one verse. The universe. A state of being in which we are very open to being visited by God. Very open to hearing God’s voice. Seeing him. Feeling the peace and love and beauty of his holy presence. Experiencing the affirmation and encouragement of his ordinary extraordinary presence.
I’ve run into a lot of Christians over the past 58 years or so. A ridiculous number, maybe. And mostly what I find are intellectual Christians. No, that isn’t right. I find Christians who are wedged tight as an oaken bung in the bunghole of their minds. No leaking. Successfully retaining the contents under pressure.
I mean, seriously! I’ve run into a lot of people who have no idea that their main thing is enjoyment. Their main activity is to find God and enjoy his presence. Their main preoccupation is to welcome God and his love for them. To find God. To look for him. To expect him. To look forward to seeing him. Hearing him. And then once found, to rest in his presence.
I was reading a book the other day. And in it, the author talks about some of these Christians. And I immediately wanted to reach through the pages of the book, through the lines of type, and stroke these poor people. Pet their heads. Hug them. Oh, these poor souls! They had no feeling in them. No feelings of love for anyone in them. They had been so traumatized. So hurt by. Oh. Who knows. Parents. Grandparents. Brothers. Sisters. Lovers—supposed lovers. Random events. Random catastrophes. Random violence.
Oh, it’s terrible what happens to people! It’s so sad! Here they are reading their Bibles and listening to their pastors and participating in small groups of one kind and another, and they’re dead inside. Completely numb. They don’t need drugs or alcohol because they are walking through life in a semi-comatose state already. They are lethargic and depressed and a bit zombie-like.
And they don’t know how to change this. They don’t know that they are living inside a tragedy and have a choice. They don’t know how to choose comedy. They have no concept. They read the words about how God is love and how all the Law and the Prophets can be summed up in the two commandments. They read the words about the Counselor coming and role the Counselor is to play in our lives.
They read the words about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. And they have no idea what any of this could possibly mean except to be good. Be Christlike. Be perfect. They honestly think that love is a commitment and not a feeling. They honestly believe that it’s their job to identify sin in other people and themselves and work on various sin-reduction projects.
They think that conduct is everything. They think that sin-management is everything.
And all I want say is, “You poor baby. You poor damaged human being. You weren’t made for this. This isn’t what God has in mind.
“He doesn’t want you wandering through life getting beat up over and over again. He doesn’t want you to make believe you are a little Christ. Pretend you are little Miss Perfect. Little Mister Perfect. He wants you to experience his love. He wants you to experience his peace. He wants you to come to him and live in his presence. Look for him. Speak with him. See him. Hear him. He wants to reassure you. He wants to comfort you.
“You can’t see him or hear him or feel his touch, feel the deep and abiding warmth of his holy presence, because you are wedged there in the bunghole of your mind. You are too busy feeling the pain of the tight wedging. Feeling the constriction. Feeling the pressure. Holding your breath.
“Or you are too busy not feeling. Refusing to feel. Too busy being wooden. Strong. Inflexible. Moral. Sin-free. Too busy pointing out the defects of others and perhaps yourself. Too busy thinking theology and giving yourself no opportunity for feeling the profound, the infinite, love of God washing over you.
“You poor baby,” I want to say. “Take care of people who are dying. Take care of people whose loved ones are dying. Do something. Anything. Desperate situations require desperate measures. Do something different. Use your imagination. Set yourself free.
“Walk away from the church, if you have to. It can be a toxic place. It can encourage this self-destruction. This God-denying. This self-denying. This God-destruction. Desperate situations demand desperate measures. Open your heart to God.
“Imagine God in your living room. Imagine him in the passenger seat of your car. Imagine him at work, walking down the hall toward you. Imagine him in every room you inhabit. Imagine him with you wherever you go. Imagine speaking to him. Speak! Imagine him speaking to you. Listen! Imagine him as a tub of warm water. Lie down in him, and let him warm you there.”