The way I hear many people talk of salvation makes me think of creation as one large beach with a big line drawn in the sand. On this beach there are three judges, one on each end and one in the middle empowering people to step from one side to the other. The Father’s side is the one to be on, the Son is on the other side encouraging people to cross over to the Father’s side, and the Spirit makes the cross happen. There are others all over the place directing people where to go, but only the three judges really know the rules of the game. At some point a whistle is blown and the judges take note of who is where. Those on the right side of the line have a party with the judges – complete with party hats, hamburgers, and ice cream. Those on the left side are cast aside to anguish in their defeat forever (or perhaps if one is feeling particularly harsh, they are thrown in the fire pit to serve as charcoal for the burgers). Getting lost in the mix or following the wrong directions is no excuse for being found on the wrong side at the end of the game.
If this depiction were the best way to think of creation I don’t think I could argue much with those who say Christians are exclusive and hypocritical. I don’t really think we’re all running around and hoping to be found on the correct side of the line when the whistle blows. I don’t think our lives are nearly as simple as that and even if there is a big line in the sand I don’t think we have the perspective to say where many (if we can even say where any) people are standing. Even if it is true that there is finally a big line in the sand, we are clearly acting like children running around drawing so many lines (and boxes) in the sand that we have covered from our sight the only line that really matters. Even if there is a line, thinking in these terms is almost exclusively more of a distraction from what we ought to be doing than a gauge of spiritual health. I don’t believe our knowledge influences the outcome of the game anyway and, it’s not so much about us and where we stand as it is about God and how much we are transformed by the light of and from Christ.
I find it more helpful to think that creation is like an unmeasurable warehouse, with no walls and no windows, no electricity and no skylight. Hanging from the roof at the center of that warehouse is a single point of light. The source of the light is infinitesimal; the reach of the light infinite. The light shines day and night, winter and summer, rain and shine. The light is carried out so that the whole warehouse receives some measure of the light. From everlasting to everlasting the light has shone forth from the center and it has returned as by a clear and perfect mirror just beyond the edge of infinity. At some point, humans were created in the midst of the warehouse like a small mirror to reflect the light, but its surface was quickly dimmed and its edges quickly broken.
Humans are given free range of the warehouse to walk as they see fit; wandering to and fro as mirrors dimly reflecting a portion of the light. From time to time they give birth to new mirrors as they fragment where they stand and each can see in the other a portion of the light. The beauty of the light draws some toward the center like a moth to a flame, though they still stumble and fall in the dimness along the way, or are distracted from time to time by the reflections they see in their companions. They can never reach the true center of the light, though it’s brilliance grows as they come closer. As they move closer to the light, they begin to see more and more how far they must travel to reach the light. As they continue to walk, their eyes adjust and what was once blinding now appears dim and faded. Some lose heart, preferring to stay where they are rather than continue the quest. Some press onward hoping to see the pure brilliance of the light in its fullness.
Others ignore the light and prefer to follow after the dim shadows towards the outer reaches of the warehouse. They strain their eyes to see, thinking that if they look just a little harder, their surroundings will become clear. What they see is a tiny portion of the light, but instead of turning to its source, they prefer their own reflection. From time to time, someone on the far reaches of the warehouse turns, whether by accident or intention, and sees the light for the first time. Though they see but a fraction of the true light, it is blinding to their eyes that have known only darkness. Once they have seen the light, they are drawn to the light, its power is overwhelming and they begin to move forward, towards the center where others have begun to gather.
As more begin to journey towards the center, they see their cracked and broken edges. Some of their edges fit better with others and when they find their best fit the light that they reflect together gets just a little brighter. As more and more join to walk together, they find strength in each other and are moved by the power of the light even when their own portion has grown dim. In groups, they zig and they zag, moving forwards and backwards, but always seeking to be closer to the radiance of beauty, to the source of the light. From time to time, parts of the group grow weary and rest. At times, some zig while others zag, none realizing their separate reflections have grown dim. Sometimes mistaking their union for the source of their newly found radiance, they become afraid to move for fear of growing dim. At other times, groups join one another to shine more brightly.
At some point, the mirrors shall all be cleaned. The pieces will be fused together and made perfect once again. In that day the light and the darkness shall become as night and day. To those who fail to turn and see that the light is good, it will be a time of despair. Either the shadows that once testified to the presence of the light will be removed and utter darkness will be their sight. Or perhaps they will at once be blinded by the full force of light’s pure source. To those who are facing the light and have grown accustomed to its brilliance, it will be a time of rejoicing. Even the tiniest specks of dirt have been removed and they will glory in the pure light forever.
*Written spring 2013. There’s far too much going on to analyze, but it’s still an interesting visual.