04 October 2009

Preferring the Pits

For nearly two weeks now, I've been rather immobilized with a severe arthritic flare up. My time at home and incapacitated affords me the opportunity to listen to my favorite Christian radio station.

The other day I was listening as a pastor related his experiences adopting 2 orphaned boys from Russia. He spoke of the filth and squalor orphans were subjected to at the orphanage. The orphanage was terribly quiet as babies comforted themselves by rocking themselves in their excrement-encrusted cribs. They had long since given up crying as their cries were in vain - no one heeded them. Virtually no human contact at all. Having spent time holding the 2 children the pastor and his wife had chosen to adopt, he described the heartbreaking, yet almost joyful emotion he felt when it came time to leave the 1-year-old boys. For the first time in most of their short lives, they cried and screamed, reaching out their arms to the couple. As the pastor described it, it was as though they were the first people to love those children and there was an immediate bonding.

Long story short - once the paperwork was completed for the adoptions, the Pastor and his wife returned a few months later to bring the boys back home with them. He said he'd anticipated it to be a "Hallmark" moment, but it turned out quite the opposite. Once the boys were taken outside of the orphanage facility, they began to scream in terror. They had never been outside before - EVER! The sun hurt their eyes, the sensation of air blowing on their faces was met with fear. The sound of the car door, the engine - any little noise terrified them. As they drove away from the building the boys screamed and reached out for the only "home" they had ever known. The pastor tried to comfort them. "You'll love it at our home, you'll have a different life... safety, siblings and cousins who love you, Happy Meals, air conditioning, clean clothes ... " Nothing he said - even if they could have understood - could console them. He realized they preferred the "pit" they had lived in to all the "unknown" splendor he and his wife could offer.

In many ways, that is exactly how we feel about this world. We cannot imagine all that heaven has to offer. There is nothing we can humanly compare it to. So instead, we cling to the things of this world - the filty sin-filled pit we live in, we set all of our hopes and dreams in what we can see and are familier with, and fear the "unknown" of a future for eternity in heaven.

I remember a couple of years ago when I took the trip of a lifetime to Israel. Months of planning, saving up, preparing! I remember glibly telling one of my daughters that I hoped the rapture didn't occur before I'd returned from the trip. "I mean, I REALLY am looking forward to seeing the sites of the Bible, walking the footsteps where Jesus walked... " To which she replied, "Mom, that's dumb. If the rapture occurs, you can walk in Jesus' footsteps anytime you like, by just following behind him!"

Of course, I realize that heaven is indescribably, infinitely better than anything this world can offer. In fact, it's not a stretch for me to appreciate the fact that, in heaven, there will be no more pain....