Mystery, Theology, and Eschatological Confessions

On our last night in Texas, David, Glynn, Jennifer, Laura, and I walked the dirt road from the Great Hall to Lodestar (in Texas, houses have names). It was pitch dark, and if we hadn’t been together — if I’d been walking the road by myself — I would have been terrified. I know this because I had walked that road alone in the pitch dark the night before, and it had taken everything in me to keep from bolting away from the darkness, and from the sounds in the grass at the edge of the road. On the night I walked the road with these friends of mine from The High Calling, David had a flashlight.

Thank God.

The flashlight and the group of friends made things better, but Laura and I still wrapped our arms around each other’s waists as we made our way down the road. Texas is a big, dark place when the sun goes down. The sky above is beyond beautiful — like black velvet, with diamonds strewn about. But, let’s face it, it’s a lot of sky, and a girl feels awfully small in so much dark.

Somewhere along that dark, dirt road, Jennifer disappeared. She was there one minute, and the next minute she was gone. It was as if she vaporized into the darkness. Now, anyone else in this situation might think aliens, or zombies. Me? I thought RAPTURE!

“Jennifer?” I said into the darkness. I waved my arms around, groping for her in the darkness.”Jennifer!” I shouted, this time a bit louder. I don’t really know what I believe about the rapture, but I do know this: if there is such a thing, and if anyone gets to go when the rapture happens, it will be Jennifer Lee (or, for that matter, any of the other people on the road with me that night). “JENNIFER!” I shouted, and even though I wanted to sound cool, I am sure I didn’t.

By now, the rest of the crew had stopped walking, and we all stood looking into the darkness from which we had come. We heard a tiny voice from waaaaaay behind us on the road. “I’m coming.” It was Jennifer! “I had a rock in my shoe,” she said. I was relieved on multiple levels. First of all, Jennifer wasn’t gone. Secondly, I hadn’t been left behind. Thirdly, when I shouted, “I THOUGHT THE RAPTURE CAME!” we all laughed out loud. We laughed so hard, it was almost dangerous.

David turned the flashlight in the direction of Jennifer’s voice, and I could see her, on the edge of the road, balanced on one foot, shaking the stone out of her shoe. “A man and wife asleep in bed…” David started.

“You know that song, too?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he answered. And we started singing it together, only I couldn’t really sing it because I was still shaken by Jennifer’s disappearance, so I just recited the words in a low, trembly voice: “A man and wife asleep in bed, she’s hears a sound and turns her head — he’s gone. I wish we’d all been ready.”

“What? What is that?” someone asked.

“It’s a song I learned at church camp,” David said.

“You too?” I asked him. “Did you have to watch the movie, too? The one about the rapture?”

“Oh yeah,” he answered. And then we sang another verse of the song that twisted up the same way many nursery rhymes do: “Two men walking up a hill, one disappears and the other’s left standing still. I wish we’d all been ready.” Needless to say, that song had done a number on me, back in the day. Walking on the road, toward the lights of Lodestar, with Jennifer safely here on planet earth, I realized just how much that song had impacted me. Those four friends and that vast Texas sky became a type of confessional for me, and I left some of that fear out there in the big, dark Texas night.

It was decades before I’d learn “eschatology” is the technical word for studies about the end times. I didn’t grow up learning about theology. I learned about God, and Jesus, and the bible. Later in life, I learned about the Holy Spirit. In fact, I thought the word “theology” simply meant the study of God. When H went to seminary, he learned about Black Liberation Theology, and that’s the first time I knew there were different kinds (branches? schools? categories?) of theology.

These days, I hear a lot of talk about having “the right” theology. I probably don’t need to tell you just how much that freaks me out. Because if there is “right” theology, then there’s also “wrong” theology. And I guess that makes me wonder what I’m supposed to do with the mystery of God.

Did you learn about theology when you were young? Was any of it scary?

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P.S. Today, I’m over at (in)courage, talking about Help One Now, Haiti, Pure Charity, and the Legacy Project. We’re on Phase Five – out of seven! If you don’t mind, I’d love it if you’d click over and share that post on your Facebook page, or talk about it on Twitter. And, if you’ve backed the project, or made a donation, I am beyond humbled —we all are — by your generosity. Thank you.