Kingdom of Heaven
It is right now, here in the midst of this chaotic world where we need to be able to convey Heaven to a friend or a stranger, our beloved or a foe. I’ve an example of one of those serendipitous moments where I simply knew that I was carrying Heaven for a near-stranger.
Years ago a conversation struck me as most poignant for, without prelude we began talking about exquisite beauty and that elusive emotion, joy. We both knew with certainty that the two are not the same. One so often thinks that with great beauty comes joy. And yet I could see violent pain in her eyes, and I said so.
Sometimes the greatest gift that we can give to someone is to identify with the moment they’re in; simply acknowledging the pain they’re stuffing deep inside can bring such permission. And permission is so empowering isn’t it?
I think what was surprising was not the seeing the pain but it was the surety in my words to her, “You need to go through the veil. You need to walk through your valley. This grief keeps bubbling up and you keep shoving it further down inside anytime it grabs you. The thing is, when a person refuses to feel the pain they also lose access to joy.”
It’s true that I’ve paid the price to be able to offer those words. I know from experience that pain and sorrow can catch you blindsided. Oh, without apology they’ll knock the wind out of you, and leave you motionless for years. The faraway look never leaves the woman in the mirror until she takes their hands and permits Sorrow and Sadness to teach her how to live.
We are incapable of loving deeply, of laughing stupidly loud, of rolling in the depths of undignified belly laughter until we follow the footsteps of pain … who has hurt you? What have you lost? What, oh what has slipped through your fingers like so many grains of sand?
Sometimes the greatest mistake we can make is trying too hard, going too fast with grief. Just say “Yes” to Father. He’s a gentleman about this sort of thing. You’ll know His voice when He asks again if you and He can look at this thing together. Sign up for the multi-year plan. In the end a few years that are set aside for grief-work are so much fewer than the decade you spent trying to avoid it. I might know about that first-hand. I’ll say this … the fruit of working through grief is being able to feel. Period.
Psalm 31 says, “Thou hast set my feet in a broad place.” The journey of unresolved pain and grief is constricted, and narrow. It’s like walking a tightrope. But that broad place that Father leads us into when we decide to look pain square in the eye, ah it reminds me of the nature of God Himself. It’s all upside down, you remember. We think pain and losses are His doing. They’re not but He’ll use them to lead us into a new space in life, a new vista that is more reflective of who He is.
The Kingdom of Heaven is about a wild range of emotions, and colors, and sounds. The Kingdom of Heaven is about people, and relationships and being able to scale the cliffs of pain, and releasing and embracing. A vibrant way to live. But it’s here on Earth that we learn how to live in the Distant Kingdom. Say yes.
Carry Heaven. Now.
Most people’s expressions glaze over when I start talking about my work and so I don’t bother to talk about it very much. I tell them, “I work with computers and data.” or “I load lots of data into an enormous financial system for a very large manufacturing company.” My listeners raise their eyebrows but rarely utter another word of interest about my job. I thought I might weave together a few interesting facts about what I do, that won’t put you to sleep, and yet still give a better description.
Think of the last time you sat in traffic waiting for a train. Did you open the windows to listen to the clackety-clack, or picture yourself walking on top of the rail cars as if you had nothing better to do? The company where I work is in the supply chain industry. So … think about seeds becoming plants; plants producing food; food harvested and transported by truck or rail to manufacturing plants; manufacturing plants making products; products being shipped to distribution centers; distribution centers delivering to stores; stores putting products on shelves; and you purchasing products for your family. That’s supply chain in a really simple description.
Now picture a bottle of vegetable oil in your kitchen … and then standing next to a rail car of vegetable oil. Your bottle of vegetable oil is still in your hand, and you are dwarfed by the magnitude of the rail car, let alone the amount of oil in the rail car itself. The comparison nearly blows your circuits doesn’t it? It fascinates me. Now compare your bottle of oil to a full train length of rail cars of vegetable oil. Or even many train lengths of rail cars. Thousands of rail cars.
Our comparison of one person’s demand for a product compared to the supply can go in many directions but I want to think about the principles of supply and demand in the Kingdom of God. Our economy is expressed in terms of monetary exchange, and we assign a value to a bottle of oil or a pair of jeans. We exchange or purchase the jeans based on the value determined by the company. If they are Lee jeans then they are one price and if they are 7 For All Mankind brand then a different price. But that economy is man-made, of course, and God is in no way bound to our way of doing things. He’s on His own schedule. He owns everything and so He’s free to ‘exchange’ on whatever parameters He likes. He happens to like ‘free’ a lot and that’s really good, I think.
But what if He put you in charge of a supply chain? What if He said that you should watch over, manage, tend the supply chain for a product line, or even an industry? Certainly Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would understand this principle. What if God so gifted you to lead the design for Apple products: Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods. Or beginning with a small operating system like the Disk Operating System shape the way the world processes information?
Before you think to yourself, “Meh! She’s being ridiculous!” Realize that God uses ordinary people to impact and influence the whole world. We often think in terms of supply, meaning, I need the $100 to cover this bill. We do not often think in terms of the supply chain … all of the enormity of God’s abilities and the storehouses of God’s supply. He operates on a much larger scale … and yet an infinitely smaller scale at the same time.
God wants you to engage with Him and connect with Him so that He can do enormous things through your life. And yet He’s crazy with compassion toward you when you discover that first wrinkle or when your dreams seem dim and unreal to you.
In the same moment I like to ponder the enormous train car full of vegetable oil and the sparrow. There’s the old hymn, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”