Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book of Life

Yesterday, we looked at one of the servants of the Lord in Ezekiel 9, sent out by God with a pen and paper ahead of the destruction of God's judgment. I said that I don't think the paper was simply for making a list of the marked and the unmarked, as there's something theologically troubling about a God who makes lists.

And yet, we're pretty sure that's exactly what God does.

We read these passages about something called the Book of Life and the names written therein, and we think that God has some master list of every life that has ever lived, every created man, woman, and child in His eternity who has merited somehow the gift of heaven. Troubling theology abounds. First, as this seems to imply that some names simply don't make it into God's book. He neither loves nor redeems everyone. Second, it implies that we somehow do something to merit our names being in the book at all. Even if it's just making the decision to accept the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, it still sets up a bit of a works-based salvation that we should not be comfortable with.

Moreover, it puts us back in this sticky place where we are but objects of a God who makes lists. Who sorts us into categories. Who has both a this and a that instead of just one thing. That bothers me. It ought to bother all of us.

But if this God, this God who knows our names in the first place, is, as I said yesterday, not a list-maker but an author, then the book of life is not a sorting but a story. It's not a list; it's a narrative.

And it's not a story we need to be afraid of. It's not a story we need to be ashamed of. We have this idea somehow that when we get to heaven, God and all the saints gather 'round to watch a filmstrip of our finest, and not-so-fine, moments and critique our lives. As though there's still some sort of sorting process going on. I don't think it's going to be like that.

I think it's going to be like good friends around a bar. God opens His Book of Life and sees not our names, but our stories, and we sit around reminiscing about all those crazy adventures we had, all those wild moments, all those "you had to be there" times that don't even take words. Just a look between Him and us puts us both in the same place, and we get it.

We're going to uncover all the wordplay we never noticed on a first read through, as though we weren't quite speaking the language of our own stories when we were living them (the way that footnotes in our English Bibles help us to understand some of the subtleties of the Hebrew and Greek). We're going to see all the side stories that were developing around us, all the backdrop of the characters that came into and out of our scenes. Just what we need to know to understand the real impact they've had on us...or we on them.

We're going to see some of the smudges where the Author went back and rewrote this or that chapter, where He worked His creative genius into our stories in a way that maybe He hadn't planned full out but He made it work because, well, He worked it for good. We're going to see, I think, some of the cuts on the editing floor, and we're going to look together at the way that these lines might have changed our stories forever - for better or for worse. Decisions we made, and decisions we almost made. Paths we took and paths we abandoned. Storms that laid ahead and storms we avoided. It's all going to be there.

And best of all, we're going to see exactly where our stories lie in His. In the Book of Life, it's all woven together. Not separate books. Not a compilation of my story and your story and great-grandmother's story and ancient stories all back to back to back, but threads of a single story all running together. I'm going to be able to turn back a few pages and see whose stories lead into mine, and turn ahead and see whose stories mine leads into. I'm going to be able to read how God's story works its way through all of them, how it is the single thread holding them all together. How no matter what page I'm on, whether it's page 1 or page 43,395,341,438 of the Book of Life, God's story is constant through every page, even through my few pages.

But there I will be, my name not in a list but in a story. In full living color. The story of Aidan in the story of God in the stories of Creation from the beginning unto eternity. In the Book of Life. Written by one incredible Author. 

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