"There's a rugged road, on the prairie, stretching all across the last frontier...
Lyrics by Judee Sill.
"I was born in pain, squeezed out through torn and bloody tissue, and I offered up, as my first evidence of life, a wail. I will likely die in pain as well. Between those two moments, I live out my days limping from the one to the other".
Philip Yancey - Soul Survivor.
"I cried when I was born, and everyday shows why".
I was talking to a friend recently, and we were pondering the marvel of being here - the wonder of all the profound and exquisite things we can experience and encounter, especially love, and how that furnishes not only our passion for life, but our entirely reasonable attitude of wanting to avoid or escape death. We have such capacity, such a potential to engage with and relish genuine grace, and yet, most of us spend much of our days confronting misery and anguish, either due to physical or inner ailments, and even if resources allow us to evade much of that suffering, there will be a time when that is no longer so.
I once began writing a Science Fiction work where the main causes of physical death (disease, hunger and degenerate aging) had been eliminated, so our external environs had radically changed, but we were, inherently, still as we are now, in terms of our character, skills, passions and desires. The question I was wanting to examine was would life really be any different if we were essentially the same, just potentially immortal? The answer, I concluded, was no - the real pain of our current humanity is not just that we all die and suffer, it is that our present humanity (our actual nature) is a great deal less than it should be.
In the conversation I referred to, my friend was very ready to declare that there was no God - there was no 'back story' behind what we experience as the here and now, but as we talked, I asked what, then, was the true purpose of all the pain, the bleak hardships, the splendor of the genuine affection and care often shown amidst these, if it's all just a mistake - a total accident? If that is so, why do we go on as a race just "living"- there is actually nothing beyond total futility. It is that consideration (and the fact, I would argue, that reality itself questions such a conclusion), when soberly faced, which makes us consider deeply the nature of what it's really all about, especially when life can still can so express the marvel of love, even amidst the pain.
When Jesus spoke to His friends of heaven, of the life that is coming, He didn't convey some conceptual floor plan of the great beyond - He spoke of eternity opening by our encountering the "heaven-ness" of life now engaged with and lived through Him... that is the essential essence of our true and eternal humanity. When direction and the true nature of meaning, of significance, is found in the person and work of Him, then all things become re-defined. That doesn't mean we exit from the present - though we'd often like to, want to, be very far from what we currently experience. It does mean that the pain, the loss, the hardship, the uncertainty, can all become bearable, not in our meager and desperate selves, but in the fact that behind the storm, there is not just a void, a blank, a total loss, but one who wants life to matter, now and forever.
It's easy to use belief in a fashion which is banal or cliche, but Jesus tells us there is a true and viable hope, and it can be found amidst all our dirt and pain - that is where He wishes to speak to us the most.