I found myself lying face down, peeved beyond words at having been whisked away at that crucial moment. I wish it were no more upsetting than being infuriated at having a dangling carrot ripped away from me. What was particularly vexing, however, was the crushing suspicion that I had been dismissed as unworthy to hear vital secrets about to be unlocked in the rest of the lecture. Especially galling is that they were not just heavenly mysteries but I was being denied access to information about matters of grave concern to my era and my planet. I guess I was confirming yet again how self-obsessed I am, but I worried that if I cannot be trusted with such information, what sort of failure must I be?|
Desperately trying to calm myself, I tried to be more positive. As I lay there with my eyes closed my thoughts slowly gave way to other matters. Funny how I pass out almost every time. What mysterious adventure am I in for now?
Nearly all sense of danger had evaporated. I had been kept safe every other time I had been flung from one place to other. I opened my eyes and turned over. Surely not! In a flash I sat bolt upright and hastily scanned my surroundings, my heart pounding. Oh, no! I had never felt so cheated.
Not since these outrageous events had begun had I been surrounded by such chaos. Yep, I was back in my own bedroom. More disturbing still, I had been tucked up in my own bed. How could all that possibly have been a dream? I strained to recall the last things I could remember before all this started. To my deep annoyance, I remembered going to bed. I was furious. Why hadn’t I remembered earlier that going to bed had preceded all these surreal experiences? Then another thought came. This is ridiculous! How could so much be crammed into one night?
I flicked off my bed lamp and flopped into my pillow, hoping I could go back to sleep and wake up to discover that what I had experienced had not been a dream.
When next I opened my eyes, there was total anarchy wherever I looked. It was my embarrassingly untidy room alright. After the perfection of some of the places I had visited, it seemed more of a shambles than ever. My clock confirmed it was still the middle of the night.
Hey! I switched my light is off, didn’t I? How can I see so clearly? There was something peculiar about what was lighting up the room. I rolled over and nearly jumped out of my skin. Chebon was standing before me; his glowing body illuminating the room. He looked as regal as ever, despite his head being bent awkwardly to avoid scraping the ceiling.
He looked at me. “Man,” he said.
That’s all it took. I began to tremble. Strength drained from me. You never realize how small a room is until one of those monsters tries to cram into it. Nevertheless, being addressed by Chebon was unsettling for more reasons than the room preventing me from being my usual thirty or more feet from a celestial.
I had become somewhat anesthetized to illustrious nonhumans treating me as if I did not exist. Being the focus of their attention, I was quickly discovering, was an entirely different predicament. The contrast was as stark as having seen numerous documentaries of ferocious sharks and suddenly finding myself in the water with one. Yes, I had endured the horror of interacting with what I had presumed to be fallen angels. Nonetheless, this roaring blast furnace of glory made fallen ones seem like dying embers. I shuddered as I recall overhearing one of these holy ones speak longingly of annihilating all of humanity.
“Help!” I cried, as I began to slip into some sort of faint. He reached out to me. I’m so thankful he did not touch me – I doubt I could have coped with that – but I felt strength coming from him and flowing into me.
“You live too aloof from God, little man. You don’t treat him as your constant companion and confidante. You rob yourself of more than you can even imagine; squandering your life thinking to yourself instead of communing with the One who is warmer and more exciting and amazing and uplifting than your most extravagant hopes.
“You treat the *ineffable Lord more like an occasional visitor than the One who is your life, your wisdom, your strength, your joy, your glory, your all. Rather than cherishing his companionship, you settle for pathetically less. You are too content to be fascinated by his trinkets, distracting yourself, instead of delighting in the endless richness and matchless beauty of who he is.”
I was reeling under his barrage but he kept pounding away with at least as much sensitivity to my feelings as a battleship.
“Like someone so enthralled by wrapping paper that he never discovers the gift inside, you let yourself be intrigued by things he has made rather than by the Maker himself. You try to survive on stale crumbs when God himself is the extravagant banquet that is yours for the taking.
“By your side, hanging on to your every word and thought, aching to be included, is the most fascinating, stupendously desirable person who is infinitely more devoted to you than anyone else is even capable of. And most of each day you spurn him, treating him as if he is not even with you.
This guy has no idea when to stop!
“You let yourself shrivel into a tiny, self-obsessed shell of a person, instead of growing into the magnificent, ever-expanding being that continual Christ-centeredness would make you.”
Although I had barely the faintest idea of what I must be missing out on, he left me feeling I must be the biggest fool the universe has ever seen. I was even temporarily distracted from my angst over what I had thought to be the greatest adventure of my life turning out to be nothing more than a dream. But hang on! If it were just a dream, how come right now there’s a supernatural being towering over me, turning my own bedroom into a doll house? Man, why does everything have to be so confusing?
I was denied time even to vent, however. Motor Mouth had not the slightest intention of slowing. “My primary mission,” he said, “is to remind you that you have merely seen a vision – a doctored portrayal of reality.”
“What?” I said, rather loudly.
“Allowances have been made for your intellectual and spiritual limitations.”
“My what?” I was more than a little indignant.
“And do you think the Son rapped?”
“Oh,” I said, deflated. What a blockhead! Of course Jesus would not have rapped. How could I have missed something so obvious? I really must have been in a trance to have been so stupid.
“I figured out that what I saw was being translated,” I said rather proudly. “From what you say, certain liberties must have been taken with the translation, but what I saw must have been genuine . . .”
“Do you think a gigantic scorpion really attacked the crucified Son?”
“Well . . . no. I thought –” Actually, I don’t know what I thought.
“And there were other divergences from reality.”
“Those sparkler things – surely they were real? What about the sand that always stayed on the beach? What about –”
“I am not permitted to say.”
“Fat lot of good that is!” Annoyed and disappointed, I had momentarily forgotten whom I was addressing. Fearing Chebon’s reaction, I quickly tried to placate him with an attempted justification of my outburst. “I’ve just had what I thought was the experience of a lifetime, only to discover I don’t even know what’s real and what’s for my entertainment, or whatever!”
“Your confusion is for your well-being.”
“For my what?” I was raising my voice again.
“You have a great susceptibility to pride.”
“Oh!” Actually thanks to your tender coaching, I think my humility is coming along quite nicely, now. I didn’t dare say that out loud but he probably read my mind anyhow. It is hard enough keeping one’s mouth shut when angry. How does one keep one’s mind shut?
“Well, you’re real!” I retorted.
My self-control was wearing dangerously thin.
“It’s pathetic how many simplifications and distortions had to be made to pander to all your weaknesses,” he added.
Did he delight in twisting the knife? Anger and disappointment fought for supremacy in the seething cesspool raging within me. Had I been hurled from world to world like a human canon ball, or was it all an illusion?
That infuriating ogre [I’ve since repented of that expression] was definitely reading my mind!
I think the most invasive medical examination would be preferable to being in the presence of this overwhelmingly holy messenger. Being eyed by someone whose laser vision could see through my every thread of clothing might be humiliating, but he was turning humiliation to an artform. I sensed he was peering into the most private parts of my innermost being; able to expose my most embarrassing secrets with such clinical precision as to discern shameful failings that not even I knew were there.
My thoughts returned to what he had been saying. “So I’ll never know?” I finally spat out.
“Not likely, your side of eternity.”
I was thoroughly peeved. As I look back now, however, I see a glimmer of hope in those words. “Not likely,” is crushingly disappointing but it does not mean impossible.
At the time, however, I recalled how the apostle Paul had learnt things during a heavenly visit that he was not permitted to tell a soul. Before I could even formulate the question in my mind, Chebon interrupted my thoughts.
“See what I mean about pride?” He laughed and laughed. I thought it was rather rude.
“What secrets worthy of the name do you suppose you could be trusted with? Have you been given the tiniest hint of any aspect of your future, or any future earthly events, or as much as glimpsed the splendor of glorified humanity?”
With each sub-point, I slumped still lower, despite thinking it impossible after the previous sub-point.
“Unless you learn to die to self, you cannot truly live.” Then he added something that hit even harder. “Everything worth knowing that you have received is already preserved in the Bible for all to delight in – in the very book you falsely pride yourself in knowing.”
“Well – er . . .” Then I remembered what had precipitated his latest tirade. He’s definitely been reading my mind! I wanted to slither under the carpet. Would God let me feel so bad about myself? Could this be that fiendish angel returned to deceive me by disguising himself as Chebon?
Motor Mouth revved his gums again. “What makes you imagine that you have anything beyond the most pathetically rudimentary conception of the beauty and splendor and perfection of the glorious King of all? Why do you have the blind audacity not to realize that your understanding of the awesome Lord is so crude as to be an insult to the majesty of *the Unbounded One?” He laughed almost hysterically.
My dizzy plans for adjusting to spiritual superstar status upon my return were sobering up splendidly.
He kept on laughing.
“Okay, I get it! You can stop laughing now,” I shouted. It wasn’t that I was angry (well, I was a bit) but I had to raise my voice to have any chance of being heard over the incessant roar of his laugher. He kept on and on but I think he heard me because he was now laughing even louder.
Is this an act? Am I so susceptible to pride that I need this? Then I remembered in horror about how Paul was tormented by a “thorn in the flesh” lest he fall into pride after his apparently far superior vision. I have no idea what that torment involved but maybe I should settle for the inferior before being deemed to require something equally unpleasant.
What I was seeing and hearing certainly seemed genuine, even if not exactly my idea of how angels should act, as he kept on laughing and I kept on feeling less and less impressed with myself. He might have been acting like a drunk but I had definitely sobered up. Maybe when my story gets out, some will treat me so much like a celebrity that this will keep me grounded. That thought was quickly countered by Who’d believe me anyhow? I have not a shred of proof that I’m no spiritual con artist. He was still laughing, so I had plenty of time to think of such things. To be honest, it was getting boring.
Still, whatever has happened, I’ve been entrusted with something special, I consoled myself. Chebon quickly calmed down and looked at me with what almost seemed disgust. “Have you not read in the Holy Word how Thomas saw the glorious Son risen from the dead? Did not the one who is True tell Thomas that those who are genuinely blessed are the ones who have not seen and yet believe?
“Love never envies, nor does it exalt itself. Love revels in ever-increasing joy because it delights in the blessings of others as if they were its own. Can you imagine how thrilling and fulfilling that is, little man?”
I’m unsure whether it was coincidence but a vague picture flashed in my mind of sports fans ecstatic over their team’s big win, even though they were merely spectators and had achieved nothing. Their names will never be in record books. They will never be offered lucrative deals or have media interviews. Nevertheless, they celebrated so wildly it is hard to imagine how the real heroes could possibly be happier.
Then I thought of a little boy beaming with pride as he boasted to his friends about his Daddy’s job. Next, I thought of parents over the moon with pride simply because their baby had taken her first step. They were more excited than their baby!
What if it were possible to multiply that a million-fold by delighting in every Christian’s achievements?
“Nevertheless,” continued the giant playing sardines in my bedroom, “if you insist on impoverishing yourself by envy, making yourself miserable when you could be on what you earthlings – er humans – call Cloud Nine, at least choose the great achievers. If you must envy, the ones to be envied are those who believe without special encounters or revelations. They are the ones heaven rightly honors forever.”
He mercifully paused as I tried to process this. Then he was off again: “Nevertheless, you will share the throne of the Supreme Ruler. You humans – are destined to rule worlds and galaxies; reigning in splendor forever. We celestials will bow to your every command. And why, little man? Because you are one of those for whom the eternal Son of God – the Boundless Lord of Glory through whom all things exist – shed his blood.”
Then he vanished.
Too much was going on for me to realize until later that unless this monster were less physical than he seemed, that was an appropriate exit. Not only would he have looked most undignified attempting to squeeze through the doorway, I shudder to think of the repair bill had he succeeded.
At the time, however, I was in no mood for such trivia. I flopped back into bed; angry, shocked, confused.
It seemed the end of the book – not just the end of exciting things to tell you about, but the end of any hope of this book ever being written. I intended keeping my experience as hidden as a guilty secret. Since being floored by the mother of anticlimaxes, however, there have been some surprising developments.
Despite having no idea how I could have managed it, I was determined never again to as much as think about what had happened. I failed. My annoying brain was no more willing to let go of the memories than a dog with a dirty bone.
Just minutes after my resolution, I replayed in my head Chebon speaking of fearsome celestials bowing to my every command. My thoughts shot to that terrifying clash with the fallen angel who had claimed to be my master. Did obeying my commands include every celestial?
As I lay on my bed, compulsively trying to make sense of the crushing blow Chebon had just delivered, my mind wafted back over all the astonishing adventures I had thought I had had. I could not stomach calling them a dream. They seemed too real; too life-changing. I recalled the ‘sparklers’. Until that first ‘sparkler’ hit, I had spent much of my life yearning for marriage. Would I now spend the rest of my earthly existence yearning for those ‘sparklers’? I marveled that I had survived those astounding sensations ripping through my body. It seems our pre-resurrection bodies are not designed for such sensory overload. I smiled. By surviving those ‘sparklers,’ I had not only cheated death, it felt like I had pulled off the most daring robbery in the universe and stolen some of heaven’s treasures.
My grin broadened. What wonders are ours for the taking! What daring exploits we can achieve if only we abandon faith in our abilities and supposed goodness, and drive our faith deep into the bedrock of the living Christ. But it’s Jesus’ victory. He didn’t cheat death. He paid the full horrific price.
I pondered for a moment Christ’s power to vaporize impossibilities, his eternal glory, his unapproachable perfection, and the matchless beauty of his moral courage as love propelled him to endure inconceivable torment for those who detest him. These inexhaustible riches, and so much more, are all there for the taking for everyone who heroically clings to faith, and refuses to waste what the eternal Son paid such a stupendous cost to make available to us.
I despised my pride as I recalled the exalted Lord of glory, the majestic King of kings, on his knees and then flat on the ground, romping with children – no, not even children; entities many of us in our arrogant ignorance would drag several notches lower than that. In my mind’s eye I saw again their glee and how, though devoid of sophistication, such uninhibited delight in him is the highest praise.
Then the memory hit of that dizzying experience that left me floundering in indecision as to who is privileged and who is not. Truly, when all is revealed, all our rantings against God’s temporary tolerance of injustice will come crashing down and we will stand in naked embarrassment at our unfounded accusations against the One who is forever good and forever right. He is always kind, always unselfish, always wise. What joys, what moral heights, what endless fulfillment await those who yield to his perfection!
My grin faded as I recalled my not-so-impressive escapes from those beastly angels. They had promised to return. Was that threat cancelled now that I’m back on earth? I thought for a moment and guessed that if they considered there were as little as a ten percent chance of conning me into being their slave, they would give it a go. I took to heart Peter’s warning, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I relaxed a little, however, at the memory of Paul’s words, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” It might be tough and it might be scary but that’s how it will end for those who keep clinging to Christ.
Like a frenzied bird in a cage, my mind kept darting back and forth over all I’d recently witnessed. My thoughts flashed back to the angelic song that had wrung tears from my hardened heart as it opened my eyes to the ecstasy of discovering more of the boundless wisdom of God.
I had barely recalled lamenting lost opportunities to deepen my understanding of God’s ways when my mind whizzed forward to me squandering prayer and Bible time in that round room. I determined to do better from now on.
Before I could dwell on that, my mind was off again; this time almost overwhelming me with memories of the unexpected elation I felt when harmonizing with nature in that amazing forest. Losing my legs could hardly be more devastating than losing that mysterious connection with the rest of God’s creation.
Then my mind bolted to the entrancing beauty of that vast aquarium. It was just a flash because the next moment I was savoring the memory of that garden that seemed to have special healing powers. I had never been so alive. In a split second the words, “For me to live is Christ” came bounding into my consciousness. Then my mind fled to another of Paul’s famous statements, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far . . .”
Had God given up on me by returning me to earth without entrusting me with rare diamonds of spiritual revelation? Or is the highest revelation what is available to all who seek God through his Word? In fact, does great spiritual achievement look even remotely like what we expect? Is it to rule galaxies from a celestial throne or is it to win eternal honor by transforming the mundane into an opportunity from which to glorify God? Is the Almighty impressed by our giftedness? Are not our gifts not ours but God’s? In the eyes of the one who knows our darkest secrets, the greatest of all is the servant of all.
Have I been banished to earth or have you and I been entrusted with a challenge of divine proportions? Is this my opportunity to spurn the sludge of ease, lethargy and mediocrity and rise to levels of faithfulness that will delight my King? Are we called to follow the path of glory carved by Christ who languished in obscurity, cut off from technology and even from political power?
Could I ever again be content with this grimy planet?
He could by any of a number of means have told me beforehand, for instance, that that enormous spider was harmless. In fact, he could have let me know that everything in that world was safe. What a relief it would have been! On and on I could rave about how easily God could have spared me so much nerve-racking stress and fear without even the slightest change to the events. I guess it made things more exciting but . . .
My annoyance was slowly displaced by thankfulness, however, as I began discovering something astonishing. I am freer from fear than ever before! I am not entirely sure why, but I sense my new-found peace is somehow interconnected with the fears I experienced.
Psychology talks of exposure therapy, but I suspect more than that was involved. I have somehow learned to relax and trust God more. It’s wonderful!
I used to think of inner peace as miraculous and effortless. Although, more than ever, I see such peace as a precious gift from God, I also see it as a thrilling achievement; the fruit of a victory that comes through courageously cooperating with God in facing fears and building faith. God is in it from start to finish and yet he lovingly gives us the privilege of playing a role such that, as dependent as we are upon his grace, he kindly allows us to be worthy of a “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I note all the times in the Bible that God and angels told people not to be afraid. Instead of flooding them with peace, sending them into La-La Land, like some supernatural dose of tranquilizers, he left it up to them. Would they choose to believe what they had just been told, or would they let doubt continue to feed their fear? It is not God being lazy, much less that he is hard-hearted, but giving us dignity by letting us play a role. In fact, though he has every right to hog all the glory, it allows us to share in his glory.
Put entirely differently: the view when standing on one’s fears is exhilarating. The benefits go way beyond any fears my dream – or whatever it was – directly reduced. Having been granted a taste of victory, I am beginning almost to relish prayerfully hunting down fears and squishing them under my feet. I cannot pretend to have arrived but I am closer than I ever dared imagine.
I think Chebon’s fearsome appearance and sledgehammer bluntness had prejudiced me against him, blinding me to who he truly is. As awful as that time with him was, I sensed he was actually motivated by compassion. He was delivering home truths so that heaven might be my home forever. Not that I have come even close to regarding any of these formidable beings as a friend, but “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” bounces around in my mind.
I’ve actually come to welcome uncomfortable truths and to see doing so as the height of wisdom.
I guess I always thought we could have spiritual adventures without visiting exotic worlds. Proving it, however, was peculiarly satisfying. It seemed some sort of compensation for being earthbound.
The more I grappled with all of this, the more it seemed to me that these bizarre experiences have nudged me in the right direction in several areas of life. But it is a mixed blessing. To whom more is given, more is required. With each nudge comes the responsibility to keep pushing forward. Unless I keep putting in the effort, I will begin rolling backward and lose not only every bit of progress but could end up further behind than ever.
After months of prayerful attempts to come to terms with whatever I should call my experiences, I am still puzzled but less exasperated and more thankful. I find a slither of comfort in the great apostle Paul’s confusion over whether his experience was “in the body or out of the body” (2 Corinthians 12:3). I cannot say that every trace of disappointment has vaporized but it has largely given way to gratitude for having been granted whatever they were – even if, as Chebon insisted, people spared such experiences this side of eternity are even more privileged.
More importantly, I have gained an increased capacity to tolerate being mystified. In fact, I have almost come to enjoy it.
Do I actually want to understand everything so fully that nothing fills me with wonder? Do I want everything to drain of excitement by there being nothing beyond my understanding and nothing new to discover? Do I want to sink into being so foolishly blinded by arrogance as to think I know everything in the infinite mind of God?
I’ve found a new contentment in being human and a new delight in God being infinitely bigger and smarter and more wonderful than me.
Something I fashioned years ago means more to me now than when I first wrote it. Here it is:
Basking in Infinite Love
Embraced by divine love, your life will be tinged with mystery but aglow with glory.
Tucked in the heart of Scripture sleeps a tiny psalm of precious truth (Psalm 131). The singer confessed that as a mother denies her baby access to her milk when it’s time for her darling to be weaned, so God sometimes denies us things we crave. Yet as a weaned infant lies warm and secure in its mother’s bosom, our soul can nestle into God, not knowing why we have been denied that which we have clamored for, but content to draw love and comfort from the Father’s heart.
As the heavens soar far above us, high and unreachable, so is God’s wisdom (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 139:6; 147:5; Romans 11:33-34; Job 11:7-9). Our tiny minds may understand the Father’s ways no more than a babe understands its mother, yet still we can rest in him, bathed in the certainty that when the omnipotent, omniscient Lord lets the inexplicable touch a child of his, it is a manifestation of unfathomable love. In the hands of the One who wouldn’t so much as break a damaged reed or snuff a smoking wick, you are safe (Matthew 12:20).
Inner pain had been such a constant companion that for a while I feared not having it. I worried that without it continually prodding me I would become spiritually lazy or fall into pride or some other unforeseeable disaster would before me. So far, I have seen no evidence of that. In fact, I seem more empowered. I sense, however, that my previous hang-ups had served a purpose, but I no longer need them. I think of it as like someone with a broken leg needs crutches for a while but then reaches the point where he is better off without them.
In this a book is spiritual gold mixed with dross. Accurately discerning between the two is humanly impossible. You certainly cannot trust me to do it. You can trust God, however, provided you remain passionately committed to seeking his heart.
A key goal of this book is to shatter preconceptions so as to challenge you to settle for nothing less than your own divine revelation. The method God chooses to reveal this to you will probably seem more ordinary than visions or visitations but please keep asking him to open your eyes to whatever startling, ego-crushing truths you need to know in order to maximize your astounding potential in God. The result will bring both you and your King eternal glory.
For you, the adventure is just about to commence.
Your most fallible servant,
This copy is for personal use only. Not to be placed on the Internet, nor sold.
This copy is for personal use only. Not to be placed on the Internet, nor sold.