Three days ago Matt knelt on the ground and asked me to spend the rest of my earthly life with him. I said yes. Then we celebrated with family, friends, and copious amounts of cake.
We were bombarded with hugs, handshakes, shoulder pats, and suggestive nods (whenever the topic of babies was introduced). We spent the afternoon being stared at, winked at, and gazed at through weepy eyes. I have never felt more visible and loved-via-hugs.
I wonder about death and if hell is a place of the invisible and untouched.
In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis depicts a scene of the gardens surrounding heaven, beautiful meadows where you can run and never grow weary. There is a group of dwarves who are in this garden; they’ve made it through the wood shed and are sitting in splendor, however, they are unable to see where they are. They continue to live as though they are seated in the back of a musty stable; they see only black shadows and only smell mold and donkey. They have entered the physical realm of the heaven but are too wrapped up in their own expectations to notice. They’ve allowed themselves to become too tainted with the promises of the world to recognize the promised land.
Was this the situation of the rich man? Was he actually seated at God’s table, goblets of fresh water surrounding him? Was God bathing him with soft cloth while he imagined himself to be being licked by the tongues of hell fire? Was Lazarus holding the rich man, desperately washing the man’s wounded and calloused eyes in the hopes of giving him sight while Abraham silently wept? I think so.
Hell is not a land of leaping flames or icy rivers. Hell is the rich man standing before the face of God and only allowing himself to see a mirror, dwelling on the identity of riches he had built for himself and seeing that identity shattered. Hell is the choice, because we are given the option, of anything but God. The rich man never asked to get out of hell.
God is not on a pedestal miles above our reaching fingertips, he is washing our skin of filth and oozing sores. He is the beggar approaching us in the streets. He is the woman reaching out to touch our robe, to be noticed and spoken to by us. God is desperate.
When I was two, I had surgery on my eye to remove a tumor that was expanding back into my brain; it was on a set path of destruction. I was either going to have severe brain damage or become blind in my right eye. After the surgery—and being a two-year-old—I believed that the doctors had made my sight invincible. I used to look directly at the sun to prove to my brothers my superiority. I could see everything. Yet, over the years I have become aware of my human blindness; the ways and situations in which I choose not to see anything but myself. Daily, I choose hell over heaven and God when I choose blinders and a mirror. I sit in musty stalls and curse any God who could allow hell to exist.
It was hell for God to watch the rich man sit at the royal table and not recognize his seat. It was hell for God to watch humanity sit and stare at a mirror instead of at his face. It is hell for God when my eyes glaze past him, when I don’t reach out my hand to touch him. Hell for God is being invisible and untouched.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.