Some time ago, I’m not exactly sure when, my focus shifted, and today it shifted even more. See, I used to focus quite a lot on afterlife, as though I had any idea what that would look like at all. This world was something to get through and then heaven or hell were the two possible destinations we could end up in when we die. Much of the Christian world still focuses heavily on these ideas.  I’m not here to argue over what happens when we die. I really don’t know. Not for certain. And I’m not certain that’s what the main point of the Biblical narrative even is. But what I know is that my focus shifted some years ago to ask a different question.

What about heaven and hell here – now?

Are people experiencing suffering, hurt and loneliness right now? And can I possibly bring heaven near right now? Is it more about choosing whether I will engage in decay or repair here and now for my own life and the lives I come in contact with?

That has been where my focus has headed over recent years. To bring repair as much as I can and to reduce the decay of suffering around me.

But I have realised something a little more which I guess is obvious and I have considered before (and even wrote about in my book, Taping Over God) but I was reminded of this important reality.

The decay or difficulties of life can’t just be removed to obtain some ultimate state of bliss. No. Some of it can be eased but some must just be accepted as part of life. Take aging for example. We don’t want it. We want to stay young forever so we buy all kinds of products that promise youthfulness so that we can avoid the reality that we’re getting old and eventually, we’ll die.

Or another example, sadness. We often want to be happy so we buy the happy meal, or the clothes or maybe we might sometimes do whatever we can to bury any of our emotions that aren’t producing happiness because we are trying to obtain ultimate satisfaction.

But what if, rather than seeing difficulty and suffering as something to escape to get to happiness one day (kind of like heaven one day) we embraced the whole of life as it is – hard, at times traumatic, sad and challenging?

I don’t mean create suffering. That’s absurd. But accept that it already exists. You have some of it, right? And it is part of the deep, meaningful, complicated, messy and beautiful life that’s yours! Stop trying to be rid of it. Sure, engage in doing what you can to bring repair, but rather than ignore or mask the other stuff, admit it. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. And embrace the tension of this life that will always be full of both decay and repair over and over.

After all, death and resurrection (pretty prominent Biblical ideas) aren’t one-time events. And they aren’t just something we believe happened to someone (Jesus) once. They are more than that. We are the very site of death and resurrection, on repeat—daily. It’s not depressing. It’s freeing. Decay and repair—here and now, and tomorrow, and the day after.

Embrace it all. Engage in it. Acknowledging the difficult and messy parts of our lives is what makes relationships that much deeper.

I hope we can all remove our masks a little lower and accept each other as we are. Perpetually in the tension of brokenness and repair, practising honesty in regards to our current reality but hope for a better reality. But not one void of emptiness. There is no magic formula to remove the emptiness we all feel at times. Just a continual process of life which juggles the tensions of happiness, mixed with pain, mixed with purpose, all creating the wonderfully complex thing we call life.

May our relationships be real, deep, and meaningful.

I have left room for so much further thought on these topics. Please be part of an ongoing conversation about things that matter, either here with me, or with those you love.

Jim.

 

If you’re interested in keeping up with whatever I’m up to elsewhere (which is not all that exciting!) here’s a couple of places we can connect.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JimStevensAuthor

Instagram @jim._stevens

And if you want to read more about all this rethinking God stuff you can check my book out here:

https://jimstevens.com.au/

or here https://tinyurl.com/y4wbc9gl

 

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