I was driving from California to Texas some years back. I was a young wanderer, living that “Bobby McGee” kind of freedom—you know, nothing left to lose. I was alone and very sleep-deprived, zoning out for miles at a time. I had made the drive so many times that I could do it with my eyes closed, and almost tried a couple of times. This time, however, I ran into a bit of a snag. There in the middle of the desert, at a crossroads with a gas station, a diner, and a stop light, I faced a sign that read “Road Closed: Detour.” “No biggie,” I thought, “I’ll be back on track in a few miles.” Famous last thoughts…
Miles and miles went by and I never saw another detour sign to get me back on my intended journey. Before long I started seeing signs for towns that I’d never heard of, or that I knew were nowhere near the direction I needed to be going. And the distance wasn’t 14 miles or 25 miles—we’re talking 183 miles to these places. I was just whizzing past desert scrub—a cactus here, a Joshua tree there, the occasional scraggly palm, sage hills around me and endless blacktop in front of me.
It was a never-ending two-lane highway through the Twilight Zone. Now it was 30 minutes since I detoured…now 45 minutes…now an hour. I had abandoned all hope that I would ever actually see another detour sign. But I kept thinking surely I would come to a town where I could get directions and get back on track.
My heart leaped into my throat as I realized I hadn’t checked my gas gauge in a while. I actually thought about it before looking at it, as if not knowing how much gas I had (or didn’t have) might be better—at least I wouldn’t start worrying about that too. But I looked and, sure enough, there was my little needle rubbing flirtatiously up against the red zone. And there I was, in the middle of nowhere, running out of gas and heading for Mexico!
There are two crucial understandings in such a situation. First, one must understand what it is to be lost. Second, one must understand what it is to be found. This is, in a very broad sweep, the biblical story and the life of faith. The fallen world is notorious for evading that first issue, continuing to willfully careen down a highway to hell, even sometimes calling it “the good life.” But the people of God are notorious for evading the second issue, continuing to sit on our hands in our holy huddle, choking on a list of superficial do’s and don’ts and calling it “holiness.”
It's like Jesus was getting us into heaven--
and heaven into us--before we die.
What is it to be found? What are we supposed to be doing? Why don’t we just step into heaven after we “get saved”? Is that the point, getting into heaven? Or is being a Christian only about making the world a better place? What is holiness, anyway? We have planted all sorts of “detour signs” in response to these questions: Legalism; Last Days; Liberation; Left Behind; Tolerance; Turn-or-Burn; Christian hedonism; Desert asceticism; Apocalypse Now; Apocalypse Never; One Way; Many Ways; I’ll Fly Away, O Glory!
God is big, his plans are big, and it is never safe to claim a monopoly on the truth. Nevertheless, it seems clear that many today have a limited-to-non-existent awareness that something really happened upon Jesus’ resurrection, something more than proving that there is life after death and showing how to get to heaven when we die.
It’s almost as if Jesus was bringing heaven to us. It's like he was getting us into heaven—and heaven into us—before we die. It was a whole new thing. For the wanderers who will turn onto that road it becomes a whole new creation; indeed, they become a whole new creation.
To be continued...