One of the things that frustrated me about Christianity, and Christians in particular, was the notion that heaven was a place where we were supposed to want to stand around a throne singing three chord praise songs to a god who was the epitome of narcissistic.
And the truth is all I could think about was: God, don’t you dare come back and destroy this world and make me float up on harps singing praises to you, because I haven’t even had sex yet and that seems a pretty lame trade.
You can appreciate, I’m sure, why ‘falling away from faith’ was as easy as the child who ‘forgets’ his parent has asked repeatedly for him to leave his shoes at the door. Where there’s no conviction, there’s no joy in the obedience.
In 2010 faith finally became something tangible and intangible at the same time and I was okay with that, but I was surprised by the theology that wooed me into deep faith and a love I’d never known or felt before.
It was the understanding of eternity this theology embraced that was so enticing and beautiful to a girl who’d experienced nothing but the seeming harsh backhand of God in a life of pseudo-faith. These people pointed out the eschatological inconsistencies in the vast majority of evangelical milieus and I was hooked. Part of the reason I had felt so gypped in my faith is because it seemed a lopsided trade where God always got the bigger and better portion: I had to endure this, so He could get glory for eternity (albeit glory brought by white robed minions on three chords and a djembe)?
Now, it seems laughable to think that way, but back then it felt sickening and disgustingly true. My heart sneered at that sort of God, even when my actions betrayed me.
But this new theology (even if it was very old theology) talked about how the purpose of everything is to glorify God whose greatest act of love toward us was coming down, dwelling among us, and then stretching out, bruised and broken, and dying for us. And so it meant too, in the face of such love, such holiness, that in eternity everything that did not glorify Him would be consumed by the All Consuming Fire.
And this captured me.
All I knew was all around me, all inside of me and all overflowing from me was brokenness—a sick, cyclical, deep, brokenness—but I still liked who I was. I still liked parts of me that seemed real and authentic and individualistic. An eternity of robotic, white-robed, harmonic minions covering acres of white clouds seemed the absolute antithesis of enjoyable to me.
The Bible, on every page, from Genesis to Revelation, suddenly came alive now with God’s ultimate plan of redemption. And it was not the burning of everything and creating new, but the refining of everything and restoring it to original intent. This captured me. This retained me. This fueled me. Why?
Because it means what I’m doing here on earth isn’t a waste. The truthful, honest, real, authentically obedient things I am doing will be refined, but not disposed of. Not burned up. If they’re bringing glory to God (even in their fractional sliver of goodness), He’s delighted in them. He’s like a kid who brings home pockets of strings, pebbles, a frog, a rubber-band: worthless to the naked eye, but treasures to him.
That’s a God I can serve. That’s a God who I can feel loved by because I know I’m worthless to the naked eye, but I want to be a treasure, more than anything. I can’t live under the fear of being burned alive a la Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins theology. And I can’t live under the tyranny of being good enough to escape refining a la holiness theology.
But to know that every part of me that is disgusting and revolting is somehow, in a strange and ultimate way, in accordance with God’s plan because He knows it’s not there for eternity and He’s not worried about me walking through eternity with a limp—oh, I can live there. I can abide there. I can find faith there. I can rest there.
“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:26-29