This… is NOT… the end! This bride, you and I will rise, come alive like third day morning first breaths of Christ!
These words broke open my heart this morning. I felt disconnected today and couldn’t quite get at what I was feeling. My very absence of feelings was telling. I sat down to respond to an email and began to listen to the song, “This is not the end” by Gungor. In the live recording, spoken word artist Amena Brown proclaims the truth that opened my heart. I began to cry. To be honest, it was a relief.
A phrase that has been a comfort to me in the past few years is “the story is not over yet.” When I’ve found myself in moments of despair, the deep belief is that this circumstance will be the end of me. Nothing will change. I am doomed to a life fraught with pain and loneliness. It is in those moments that I need to be reminded that this is not the end. Even though everything in my wants to believe the opposite.
Last Sunday at church, my pastor spoke similarly, that when we’re in grief, we feel as though this is the end of the story. This is the lie that I continue to believe. I am convinced at times that the story I live is a tragedy. Yet, that is not what my God says:
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
– Ps.126:5 ESV
As I see it, we can hold onto the truth that this is not the end for two reasons. First, unless I die right now, this is not the literal end. Second, and this is the lasting piece, the end of our story, the big metanarrative, ends with us with God in heaven. My time on the earth may end happily or tragically, but my time on this earth is not the ultimate end.
Yet, here I am on this earth, in the midst of a story. And the hope of being with God in heaven, if I’m honest, can feel intangible at times. Recently, I read a book by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed, (a sort of follow-up to his beautifully tender book on grief, A Grace Disguised) that explores the idea of narrative and redemption. While considering the nature of the story we are all in, Sittser recounts his own experience of redemption. At the same time, he holds and acknowledges the pieces of the story that are yet to be fulfilled, completed or answered. There is a tension that exists between the now and the not yet.
I grew up in a church that taught and lived out a kingdom theology. The kingdom of God has begun on earth (this is what makes redemption possible now), but it has not been fully actualized. There is tension as we wait for the fullness of this kingdom life. I may experience shades of God redeeming parts of my story today, but there may be aspects of my story that remain unresolved on this side of life. There is a deeper, more complete redemption of my story that is to come.
What will it look like, when we experience the fullness of God’s kingdom? It’s told best here:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
– Rev. 21:1-4, ESV