Monday, May 25, 2009

Where can I flee from your presence?

It’s been a long time since my last post, but here goes.

There are a few questions that some well intentioned Christian will ask to upset someone and try too convert them. Two go together like this: Suppose you were to die tonight. Do you know where you will spend eternity? And when you stand before God, He will ask you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What will you say? These questions have always troubled me, even after forty years--not that I have never prayed the Sinner's Prayer or have somehow rejected Christ, but that God would dangle my soul before the abyss looking for some reason to toss me aside. Sometimes when I board an airplane, I have to pray a special prayer, just in case.

After my shower this morning, an answer to this came to me. It’s absurd. God would not ask me why I should be let into heaven. This would only induce me to defend myself, a self-justification whether through works or by praying the sinners. Rather God will ask, “How can I give you up? (Hosea 11:8) And where would you go from my presence?” and cause me to remember the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 139:7-13 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night," 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

From my beginning to my end, God has held me, and God would hold me still. She has knitted my inmost being and will continue to do so. There is no is no heaven above apart from her spirit, and there is no hell below through which he does not descend with me. Even if I should turn into my own darkness, this is no darkness to God. Rather I remain wrapped in God’s eternal light.

There is no place apart from the presence of God. To the faithful, this is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) The question is not whether God abandons us to hell or lets us into heaven. Instead, the question is whether I am fitted to God’s presence. Can I trust this light and open gracefully as a flower before the sun? If so, even in the depths of hell, I would know the bliss of God’s embrace. Even if I curl up in my own darkness, God is already there, and she will not hand me over or abandon me. And were that not enough, Christ the human one walks with me through the contours of heaven and hell.