Yesterday, in church, H preached about hell. It wasn’t a fire and brimstone sermon. He doesn’t do those. When H preaches, it is thoughtful, insightful, inspirational, and often emotional. But, rarely, is it “preachy.” Even when he’s preaching about hell. He’s more preachy when he’s talking about the Philadelphia Eagles.
So, after church, sitting next to him at a table in Olive Garden, I asked him, “What is hell, anyway? I mean, when you think of hell, what do you think of?”
“A devil and a pitchfork,” he answered, without hesitation.
“For real?”I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s what I think about when I think about hell.”
“A devil and a pitchfork.”
“Other times,” he said, sitting back in his chair and lining up the silverware on the table in front of him, “I think hell might be a place where the answer is always ‘Yes.'”
I almost laughed, but I could tell he was serious. So, I thought about it: Yes to everything. For everyone. All the time. Everywhere. Forever. If you can dream it up, the answer is, “Yes!” Just think of the possibilities! At first, it seems like a dream come true. But, left to our own devices, all of us together, forever, doing whatever we want, with whomever, whenever and wherever, well, after a while, I’m not sure I’d want to stick around for all of that.
It was just a dinnertime conversation between H and me. It’s not the bible. It’s simply one person’s musings about one element of faith. The truth is there is more about God and heaven and hell and faith that we don’t know, than we do know. I believe God is quite comfortable with our questions. In fact, it’s often through our curiosity that God is able to get us closer to the Truth. To himself.
Sometimes, it seems, the arcs our questions draw through the sky, swing wide and far away from God. Our parents shake their heads at us or, we—parents ourselves—shake our heads at our own children. We teeter close to the edges of “getting it” and then we blink and realize—again—that we are smaller than we ever thought possible. One minute, we are gods in our own eyes, and the next minute, we are, quite literally, undone by the briefest encounter with the one, true God.
These journeys of ours are quite incredible, aren’t they? One day, when together we are soaring far above it all—when time falls away for good (and for good)—maybe we will see more clearly the way God has woven all of it together, and how it all meant and means something—all of our ups and downs and our uncertainty and our questions and doubts and confidence and belief and faith. Maybe then, we’ll see how glad is God that we have made the journey, in all of its meandering glory.
Together Through Lent
My friend Lyla helped me put together a newsletter I’m calling “Together Through Lent.” If you complete the form below, you’ll receive a copy in your inbox. It will arrive quietly; only once each week. And only through Lent.
I hope this newsletter serves as a gentle companion on your own Lenten journey. The truth is, I’ve got questions. Maybe my questions sound something like yours.
I’ll keep writing the regular stuff here on the blog. The newsletter is strictly for Lent, in a quiet space, with a community of people drawing wide arcs through the sky.