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Chapter 7: The Sea of Glass
When finally my senses resurfaced, I thought I could hear distant laughter. I had been lying face down on the ground. As I opened my eyes I was startled by an octopus swimming under me. What’s happened? Where am I now? As relieved as I was to be away from that beast, I was annoyed at having to puzzle over what should be the most basic of questions. Will life ever be normal again? Never before had I regarded it as a blessing simply to know where I am from one moment to the next.
I was on a floor that was surprisingly comfortable to lie on. It was made of a strange substance, as clear as glass, but as soft and warm as a mattress. It felt spongy, and yet when I depressed it, there was no shadow, nor any distortion when I looked through it. The seemingly endless floor covered an equally vast aquarium, filled with fish, water plants and all sorts of sea creatures. The depth varied greatly. In the shallower parts I could see such things as shells, starfish, sea urchins. These parts fell away to deeper areas, sometimes plunging to great depths, and yet even in the deepest parts I could see clearly all the way to the bottom.
The mystery above me was just as captivating. I could not decide whether it was a sky or an exceedingly high ceiling. The place was brightly lit, like that celestial palace I had visited, yet what was above me looked like a cloudless, moonless night far from any light pollution. But the stars – if that is what they were – were all sorts of exotic colors.
Wherever I looked I was surrounded by breathtaking beauty. As my understanding of how the Almighty’s work is testimony to his glory soared higher than ever, I grieved that the best the planet of my birth has to offer mirrors the beauty and majesty and perfection of God little better than the brass mirrors of Bible times enabled a person to see one’s image. My heart felt ready to burst with love for Almighty God, Creator of every galaxy, every atom, every creature. “God, you’re magnificent!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. What’s happening to me? I’m becoming worse than those fanatics I despise back on earth. Why can’t I pull myself together and act with dignity and reverence?
Then, for some reason, my eyes locked on to a very ordinary-looking strand of seaweed. I felt I wanted to hug it!
“Oh, how stupid!” I said out loud, as I struggled to control myself. Yet my folly only grew worse. Such powerful feelings percolated from deep within me that to my amazement I found myself babbling like a crazed fool. “How could I not love you, sweet seaweed, work of my dear Father’s hands,” I heard myself say. “What a masterpiece you are; a piece of the Master’s skill; a finite expression of the infinite Mind; revelation of the divine genius of Creator God.” I stared at that seaweed as if I had fallen in love. “Oh, sweet glimmer of the glory of God; faithfully transmitting a fragment of the majesty of the Creator! If only I were as faithful as you in fulfilling my divine purpose.”
I spoke so eloquently and effortlessly I was almost as amazed as when words gushed from my mouth when singing that song in – wherever it was. If on earth I had had such spontaneity when romancing women, my life might have been very different. Yet here I was, at last using my mouth instead of my pen, and the object of my affection was a bit of seaweed!
Finally, the sound of laughter broke into my consciousness again. Although most of the floor was that soft, transparent material, scattered here and there were stands of palm trees on white patches, which at this distance I could only presume to be beaches. It was from one of these areas that the laughter seemed to be coming. I thought I knew enough to recognize it as angelic giggling. Far in the distance I could make out what looked like two angels, rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. I suspected that they were a long way off, but in a world where the clarity of the light/atmosphere seemed superior to earth’s, I lacked confidence in such judgments. And if they were as distant as I thought, sound must also act differently here.
I tried to head off in their direction, keen to find out what was happening. At least that is what I told myself. I think my greater motivation was the hope that the distraction would help me pull myself together emotionally before I lost my mind. It was almost terrifying to realize I had just spoken to seaweed!
Moving was disconcerting at first. It was like walking in mid-air. The surface was quite invisible. At first I found myself wanting to step down hollows, or leap from high point to high point, all of which were actually below the surface and could be safely ignored. Soon I got used to ignoring what was below my feet. I learned to trust that the surface was perfectly flat. There was nothing to trip over or fall into and no inclines or uneven sections.
I had expected walking on the spongy floor to be as awkward as trying to walk on a mattress. Instead, it was a pleasure to walk on. In fact, it felt so good that I broke into a run. And then I was even more surprised. It was exhilarating! The springy floor propelled me forward. The air seemed so pure and rich. It was a joy to breathe deeply. Never had I experienced such effortless movement. The biggest hindrance was that I kept wanting to stop to examine a particularly beautiful coral, or a starfish, or a gorgeous fish. Mind you, when powering forward on this surface, coming to a halt was an art that took several attempts to perfect, but falling onto this soft surface was – I guess I shouldn’t be admitting this – rather fun.
As I bounded along, enjoying this seemingly endless aquarium, the words “sea of glass” popped into my head. Had the author of Revelation been referring to this place when he used that expression? I considered it most unlikely but I felt unable to dismiss the notion entirely. I found myself continually adding to my ever-increasing list of unanswered questions.
Each time I paused to delight in yet another wonder, my earlier reaction to that strand of seaweed seemed less and less ridiculous. I recalled how in that forest I had felt connected to all of creation. As a husband and wife are distinct personalities and yet are mysteriously one, so I felt a oneness with all of creation; a oneness that made me whole, and yet a oneness in which my uniqueness was valued. I was a part of everything in that world and they were all a part of me. We completed each other, and yet my individuality was not violated. I felt special. I felt that I had a unique contribution to make to the glory of God. In the forest it seemed to me as if I were a vital jigsaw piece that fitted into the perfection of creation. And the same was true for everything else in that world. I felt I belonged there, in a way that I never felt on the planet of my birth.
It was tragically different on earth, but in that forest I had felt as if even to rip out a blade of grass would somehow diminish me. It was partly as a king’s power would be somewhat diminished if he lost a portion of his kingdom.
The words, “animal kingdom” flashed into my mind. I was familiar with the term, of course, but I had never before considered that every kingdom has a king or queen. To whom are all earth’s animals willing subjects? I recalled that Adam had been granted divine authority over everything living on earth, but nature stopped peacefully submitting to him when he stopped submitting to God, the ultimate authority. Having lost his divine authority, he could only try to rule by violence, unlike the perfect Man, Jesus, who ruled by simply speaking to a storm and simply deciding to ride an unbroken donkey.
But if in any sense I felt a king, it was not as if I had any need or desire to lord it over my subjects. Rather than it be an ego trip, what I felt about the loss of a single blade of grass or a handful of dirt was almost like what a basketball player would feel if a member of his team was injured in the middle of a key game. I felt a oneness of purpose with everything in existence, because all exist to display the glory of the infinite God.
Of course, my contribution to the glory of God was more significant than that of grass, but I sensed that God’s intellect is so stupendous that he is personally and lovingly concerned for the minutest thing. As beholding the beauty of God’s handiwork had somehow tenderized my own heart, I seemed to be tuning into a tenderness in God’s heart– a tenderness that my own hardness of heart had previously blocked from my consciousness. I think that until then I had shrunk from truly knowing God for fear that he would turn out to be cold and harsh. As an awareness of God’s tenderness and goodness grew within me I became so overwhelmed by how infinitely worthy God is of love and thanks and adoration and perfection, that I hated the thought of him being robbed of the tiniest contribution to his glory, even if it be just a blade of grass.
In that forest, it seemed that everything belonged. Everything had a role to play. And if I felt that way about trees and rocks and animals, how inconceivably intense would my feelings be in a world filled with redeemed and perfected humanity? Would these people truly be the crown of creation, exalted even above angels?
My spirit somehow caught the faintest glimpse of what it would be like to be simultaneously in love with multiplied millions of people, each of whom I found stunningly beautiful, fascinating and exciting, and all of whom were equally in love with me. Suddenly I had insight into the thrill of an eternity reveling in perhaps a billion never-ending relationships, each of which were more permanent, satisfying, uplifting and conflict-free than the best marriage ever known on earth. The intimacy was not sexual, but somehow even more wondrous. In this flash of awareness I seemed transported to a place where everyone saw me as witty and fun to be with. More than that: they adored me in the most passionate, but God-honoring sense. And the feeling was mutual.
I sensed a world in which everyone was a hero, a megastar and highly desirable in everyone else’s eyes. I, and everyone else, felt the center of attention. Jealously was impossible because everyone’s happiness was wrapped up in everyone else’s happiness. No one could be honored without everyone else feeling so happy for that person that it felt to them as if they themselves had been honored. The intensity of love, the ease of communication, the feeling of oneness and the appreciation of each person’s uniqueness soared beyond anything I had previously dreamed.
In what seem like an explosion of revelation, I saw how so much changes when that which is perfect arrives. A caterpillar might be unable to imagine any greater pleasure than eating leaves. When it sprouts wings and tastes nectar, however, it never bothers to go back to eating leaves. Likewise, when we gain our new bodies, sex will be superseded by higher pleasures. As toys are the appropriate gift of a loving parent to a baby, marital relations are a beautiful gift from God. Nevertheless, babies grow up, and followers of Christ eventually burst through mortality into eternal pleasures. We will then miss earth’s highlights no more than we miss the teddy bear and the make-believe money of our childhood. What is necessary in the world of physical birth and death has no function in this place of perfection. Just as locks would be out of place in a world of perfect love, so would any exclusive relationship between people. As people cannot share secrets in a world where everyone already knows everything, so marriage could not exist in this world – not, of course, because marriage is not of God, but simply because that which is perfect has come.
My new feelings towards non-human creation had been indescribably wonderful, and yet I somehow knew that my delight in redeemed humanity would be many times beyond what just moments before had seemed the ultimate experience.
Then, just when I had thought it impossible for anything to surpass what I was sensing, I somehow glimpsed love, fulfillment and never-ending excitement that were exceedingly higher still – knowing God on a level beyond my current comprehension.
Suddenly I understood why Scripture says no one has ever seen God and lived, even though other passages refer to people seeing God. It’s like my claim to have seen earth’s sun when I’m referring merely to the briefest glimpse from – get this – 93 million miles away, and even then it was far too blinding for me to properly take in what I was seeing. As my eyes would burn out long before I could gaze upon the sun’s full splendor, so my brain would fry long before I could truly behold God’s beauty. No wonder I almost died in that endless palace, trying to contain the ecstasy of the mere reflected glory of God. I would need an astoundingly superior body to have any hope of containing the excitement of truly knowing God, rather than being knocked senseless by a millisecond burst of his reflected glory from a million miles away. I am no longer surprised that Scripture says Daniel “was exhausted and lay ill for several days” after a mere vision of symbols and an angel.
How can anyone describe something a million times better than the greatest earthly experience? All I can do is point, dumbstruck, at God, the warmest, most fascinating, most exciting Person in all existence. It is to be expected that intimacy with God should far surpass anything else, given the fact that he is the beautiful Mind behind all the other wonders. He is the inexhaustible Source of all love and goodness; the Perfect and Infinite One who is designer and maker of every good thing anyone has ever enjoyed.
A mysterious certainty gripped my heart that not only is God a person, he is exceedingly more personal than we are, and with far deeper feelings and emotions. Alongside him, we are the cold, impersonal ones. God is as superior to us in intelligence, creativity and personality, as we are superior to a worm in each of those dimensions. Our current difficulty is in having the courage to get close enough to God to discover how thrillingly personal and lovable he is.
A lonely man I know always avoids any woman he is attracted to. His logic is that if he finds a woman desirable, so will other men. She will therefore have a choice of men, and he is convinced that no one with a choice of men would want anything to do with him. He thinks his only hope would be with a woman so undesirable that no one – himself included – would want her. Her predicament might make her so desperate that she might possibly lower herself enough to spend time with him. You might find this attitude pathetic, but almost all of us are like that in the presence of some people. We feel there are people who are too cultured or beautiful or famous or rich or intelligent to seize an opportunity to become friends with us. If we feel this way about mere humans who might be marginally superior to us according to one or two measures, it’s no wonder we shrink from God who is in every way infinitely superior to us.
Even those of us who know that God accepts us as his children, still starve ourselves of many thrilling encounters with God because, deep down, we can’t believe someone so superior would really want to be best friends with us. We therefore keep aloof from God, breaking his heart in the process, and then we have the audacity to think it is God, not us, who is cold and aloof. In reality, God is so passionate about us that he makes it his business to familiarize himself with every hair on our head.
We rob ourselves of so much of the ultimate human experience – never-ending intimacy with the most delightfully uplifting Person in the universe – because we cannot believe God really wants it. That’s why faith is so crucial. Many of us find this faith almost impossible to muster because we misunderstand what we are asked to believe. We are not expected to believe that we are worthy of God’s love – that would be ridiculous – but simply to believe that it is the very nature of the One who said “love your enemies” to love fervently those whom others would find unlovable. We are not asked to try to delude ourselves into believing we are lovable, but merely to believe that God is as superior to us in being head-over-heels in love with someone everyone else finds unlovable, as he is superior to us in other ways. Neither are we asked to believe that God’s love turns him into a crazed maniac who jettisons his commitment to truth, holiness and perfect justice by turning a blind eye to our sins. He is simply a God whose love drives him to remove our sins by executing justice for us on the cross and bestowing upon us divine holiness and power over sin.
It is not that God loves us because we are desirable but that because the God of the impossible loves us, he is able to transform us into people who are desirable.
It somehow seemed as clear to me as the mysterious stuff under my feet that I was trusting to keep me from drowning that once we spiritually fuse ourselves to God through Jesus, there is no way that God’s superiority keeps us from enjoying him. On the contrary, it makes the relationship breathtakingly superior to any human relationship we could ever have.
Men differ from women and yet not only is that difference not insurmountable, it adds a whole dimension to marriage. Likewise, we differ from God, but that just adds wonder and excitement to our union with him. On the other hand, men and women are so alike that the similarity also makes marriage special. Likewise, we are very much like God. Not only are we in his image, we were literally made for intimacy with him. When God has completed his work of recreating us, restoring us to the splendor of his original intentions by removing from us all of sin’s hideous defects and deformities, the mix of similarities and differences between God and us will be exquisite. No companionship or union in the universe can equal it.
Angelic laughter again broke into my consciousness. I had been so lost in this new experience that I had forgotten them. Wow! Do those beings know how to have fun! They must spend half of eternity laughing!
As I recalled my new insight into God that somehow seemed to have been downloaded into my consciousness, it was more than that clear stuff under my feet that was putting a spring in my step as I bounded towards the angels. I found myself mystified as to how I had gained that sudden burst of understanding about the life to come. It was as though God had gone forward in time, tapped into memories I will one day have, and transferred them into my current brain. But was this experience really from God? Could it be some sort of psychological aberration? How could I know? It felt right and it felt exciting, but are such feelings enough to confirm spiritual truth? How many million people have been spiritually deceived even though it felt right to them?
I chided myself for being so paranoid. So far, in this extraordinary experience, all my fears had proved groundless. The fearsome angels had left me alone. I hadn’t ended up stuck in first century Palestine. The spider, the water, and the berries had all seemed safe. I didn’t know whether I had been visiting different parts of Heaven, or flitting from planet to planet that perhaps were light-years apart. Maybe I had been whisked away to other dimensions or something equally weird, but I thought it most likely that I was currently in Paradise. No one could be deceived in Paradise! Then a chill shuddered through me like a Niagara of ice water: I remembered what had happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise.
Then it grew even worse: I remembered Meurel telling how Lucifer and other angels had turned their backs on God.
But that insight – or whatever it was – I had into a world in which I was in harmony with God and all creation, feels so right, I protested. It rings so true. Every part of me screams “Yes!” and “Hallelujah!” to it. Then a Scripture from Proverbs came crashing into my consciousness. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Tailgating that came some equally disturbing words from Jeremiah “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
I continued arguing with myself. But it feels so uplifting! Then I remembered Eve again, and wondered how exhilarating she must have found the delusion of becoming like God by eating the forbidden fruit.
I found myself so weighed down by these thoughts that my joyful sprint over the aquarium had slowed to a weary plod.
But no matter how unsubstantiated some of that recent “revelation” was, the best parts are rock solid Scriptural truth, I assured myself. God is good, personal, and incomprehensibly loving. The divine plan – the plan of the One who cannot fail – is that those who cling to him will become Christlike. Somehow, everyone who wants it will be transformed. We will be pure and overflowing with inner beauty. Deceit and fear and selfishness are too contrary to God’s perfect ways to survive in Heaven. Surely, love and trust and harmony and openness would characterize the relationships of the redeemed. Did not Jesus pray that all his followers be one, even as he and his Father are one? Isn’t it impossible for the all-powerful Lord of all to let that fervent prayer fall to the ground? Didn’t Jesus, at the very time of upholding the sanctity and exclusiveness of the marriage bond, indicate that in the life to come we would be too angel-like for marriage to exist? Doesn’t Romans talk about earth’s sub-human creation yearning for the day when, along with the bodies of Christian believers, it would be transformed?
How I thank God for the Bible! Scriptural truths are like stepping stones in a swamp of uncertainty. Get off the stones on to my own guesses or supposed “revelation” and I might stand or sink – no one really knows – but I am always safe on the firm revelation of Scripture.
Then, to my horror, I recalled the Pharisees and theologians and chief priests of Jesus’ day, whose astounding Bible knowledge was indisputable. While presumably believing they were honoring God, these reverent scholars of Holy Writ, plotted the murder of the Son of God. I again plummeted into despair. They were more men of the Word than me. They prided themselves in it. That’s it! It was a eureka moment for me. They prided themselves on their Bible knowledge.
I recalled Jesus emphasizing the importance of humbling oneself, and becoming as a little child. Children keep asking questions. They keep growing. They do not suppose they know it all. They are not too proud to admit they need help. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law,” prayed the psalmist. He was displaying this attitude. His faith was not in his scholastic ability. He acknowledged a deep dependence upon God to give him special understanding of the Bible. Then I recalled Jesus’ own example. “By myself I can do nothing,” he said. What humility! What childlike dependence upon God! “I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just,” Jesus continued, “for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” He is the One who said, “I am not seeking glory for myself,” and “I do not accept praise from men.” How different would my understanding of Scripture be if I continually denied myself and sought only to please God?
As I drew closer to the angels I noticed that one of the angels rolling on the ground was plump. Then I spied a third angel coming towards them from another angle. In almost no time I was close to the angels.
I had guessed correctly. They were on a sandy beach. I recognized the leaner, more muscular one. His eyes were fiery, not just in intensity but almost in color, his nose was broad and he towered over the other two. It was Chebon.
As I stepped on to the beach I accidentally flipped some sand backwards onto the clear stuff. It flew off. Amazed, I had another go and the same thing happened. That soft, clear substance seemed to repel sand, rather like the way identical magnetic poles repel each other. But why isn’t it just scattered? Why does all the sand go back to the beach? I wondered. The rest of the sand – or perhaps something under the sand – must attract it. Then as I took a few steps I noticed that the sand was moving to replace every depression made by my footprints.
Everything – down a single grain of sand – seemed perfectly ordered. Nothing, it seemed, could ever be out of place, or be soiled. Everything seemed perennially fresh; swept spotless forever.
I looked up, and the other angel had arrived. “What’s the joke?” he asked the giggling angels. It was then that I realized he was Meurel. It felt good seeing another familiar face, even though they continued to ignore me.
“It’s unbelievable!” said Chebon before breaking out into laughter again. It seemed ages before he eventually managed to add, “Satan –” then he was off again, laughing uncontrollably, rolling all over the floor, slapping the plump one on the side, who was also convulsed with laughter. “Oh, you tell him!” he finally told the plump one, and burst into more laughter.
The plump one turned around. It was “Chubby” Kairel! It was like meeting an old friend. It was strange that I should feel so attached to these beings. I guess I felt more insecure in this alien, though pleasant, environment than I realized. I seemed to be seizing any semblance of familiarity. On the other hand, so much about these beings was overwhelming that I never managed to feel more comfortable in their presence than if I were stark naked in a room crowded with dignitaries. I was beginning to realize that not all angels had a vastly superior intellect – some seemed almost childlike at times – but if I were nose to nose with a man-eating crocodile or in the presence of Picasso or Mother Teresa or a billionaire, I would not require them to complete an IQ test before I felt on edge. A chill swept through me as I recalled Chebon confessing he had to fight the urge to wipe out all of humanity.
Kairel’s melodious laughter finally calmed down enough to ask Meurel, “What’s the perfect time in the Jewish calendar for Jesus to die?”
“Well, let’s see . . .” said Meurel, deep in thought, “this will be the ultimate sacrifice. Most sacrifices are offered . . . er . . . during the Passover? Hey, wait – the Passover – that’s commemorating the time when God intervened in human history to free his people Israel from slavery.
“Yes!” added Kairel enthusiastically, “As Jews look back to that point in time, so God’s people will forever look back to the time when Jesus died to free them from slavery to sin.”
Meurel’s face lit up. “Come to think of it, there are so many parallels between the Passover and the ultimate sacrifice. There’s the shedding of blood of a male lamb that is faultless. There’s –”
“And don’t forget it’s the time when hordes of pilgrims from all over the world converge upon Jerusalem. The city will be crammed with witnesses,” chimed in Kairel, who was also becoming excited.
Chebon at last seemed to have regained his composure. “And it’s only a few weeks before Pentecost, the ideal time for the outpouring of God’s Spirit.”
“Yes!” Meurel sounded triumphant, “There’s no doubt about it, the perfect time would be the Passover. Hey, isn’t that just a few earth-days away?”
“Right!” said Kairel.
“Well, just yesterday, earth-time, the Jewish leaders decided that under no circumstances would they arrest Jesus during the Passover.” Chebon started giggling again.
“They did?” Meurel sounded concerned.
“Yes, because of all the pilgrims,” added Kairel. “You know how the crowds flock around Jesus. There’d be a riot if they tried to arrest him with thousands of potential supporters around.”
“Oh, no!” said Meurel, his face lined with dismay.
“And it’s more than just the ideal time. Jesus has already publicly told his earthly followers that he’ll die during this Passover!” Chebon was off again in fits of laughter.
“That’s a catastrophe! How can you laugh? You should be ashamed –”
“Calm down!” said Chebon in between laughs, “There’s more!” Chebon was beside himself again. Finally he waved to Kairel to continue.
“Yes, just today Satan entered into Judas – Satan would you believe!” He was laughing again. “Satan has persuaded Judas to betray Jesus!” Then Kairel fell into another laughing fit.”
“I don’t get it,” puzzled Meurel.
“Hoooo, hoooo, hoooo, haaaa, haaaa, haaaa!” Finally, Kairel sobered up enough to explain, “Judas, being in Jesus’ inner circle, can lead the Jews to Jesus when he’s away from the public eye. So there’ll be no riot! They won’t have to defer his arrest!”
“Teeeeeoool!” exclaimed Meurel, “So Jesus really will die at the right time and all because of Satan!” Now it was Meurel’s time to double over in laughter.
“How vain can you get –” commented Chebon, “Satan imagining he could defy the omnipotent God! The Evil One has created havoc, but God has always had the upper hand.”
Kairel, a huge grin on his face, said, “There’s Satan, using all his evil genius to destroy the God he hates and he ends up furthering God’s purposes!”
“And hastening his own destruction!” added Chebon. “Oh that devil! Even when he wins he loses! Everything he hurls at God boomerangs back onto his own head!”
Meurel, almost whispering in reverent awe, “What a fearful thing it is to rebel against the Almighty.”
Kairel’s eyes lit up, “Hey! Wouldn’t that make a great song!”
Wow! Angels will make a song out of anything! I then remembered that often the Bible speaks of singing a new song. Angels sure know how to have a good time.
Grinning from ear to ear, Chebon sang to a lively tune:
“He’s armed to the teeth with boomerangs.” He nodded to the others and they joined him in repeating the new line twice. They chuckled.
From nowhere, Kairel’s musical contraption appeared, just like it had on earth, and they sang the song again with his accompaniment.
Then Kairel attempted a new verse, “What a fearful thing it is,” he sang, then the others repeated his line twice, at the end of which they looked to him for more. Kairel was deep in thought, then with a twinkle in his eye as if he had been teasing, sang, “To fight the Lord.”
Then it was Chebon’s turn. “What a foolish thing it is,” he sang. Then the others joined in:
Then everyone joined in:
“What a foolish thing,” sang Chebon, then looked to Meurel.
“What a futile thing,” concluded Meurel. He signaled to the others.
“To fight the Lord,” they sang together, and then burst into laughter.
“Great song, Chebon! Why not call in some of the choir? said Meurel.
“Yeeeaaaaaah!” chimed in Kairel.
I have no idea how he did it, but instantly there were a hundred or so angels surrounding us, some with various contraptions in their hands that I guessed to be types of musical instruments I had not seen before.
The trio quickly taught the newcomers the song, ending with the refrain:
The angels suddenly hushed, but it was too late. The weapon slammed into Meurel’s head with a sickening crunch. His head lurched forward while simultaneously he uttered a grunt. He staggered and then collapsed; his limp body crashing to the floor, where he remained motionless. In the deathly quiet, I thought I could hear my heart thumping. The angels seemed paralyzed.
Suddenly Meurel sprang to his feet again, a bright, cheeky smile on this shining face, as he held aloft the boomerang that I had been sure had killed him. The angels burst into wild cheering and whistling, laughing and jumping. Meurel beamed with delight, seeming to feed off all the commotion like an attention-seeking showman.
Then I wondered: did the angels know all along that it was just an act? Where they as much a part of the show as Meurel. Were there no spectators but all eager participants in a spontaneous game? Had I just witnessed communal fun on a level I had never dreamt possible? I sensed in the angels an exquisite oneness, uninhibited selflessness and love of life. Suddenly I felt I had been pining for this for all my existence without ever knowing it.
Right to this present moment, to have witnessed this communal spirit and unconstrained joy has been both a delight and a source of heartache, like someone born crippled unexpectedly discovering that some people can run and leap and dance. As a delicious crumb that just intensifies a starving man’s hunger, what I sensed in those angels awakened something within me, as if becoming vaguely aware that I’ve been robbed of what I was born for. Like a carefree child turning into a madly-in-love virgin aching for marriage, I’ll never be the same. Though more intense, what I feel is reminiscent of that peculiar mixture of pleasure and pain that grips me when I gaze upon a sunset. With the beauty comes an ache to fill some indefinable emptiness within; an uneasy awareness that I was made for something planet earth cannot give.
The music started up and the choir continued with the song with greater gusto than ever:
Always delight in the – power of God.
Never make light of the – power of God.
Infinite might is the – power of God.
Devils take fright at the – power of God.
Satan is foiled by the – power of God.
Demons recoil at the – power of God.
They have no choice it’s the – power of God.
Let us rejoice in the – power of God.
By the blood of his Son the victory’s won;
He overcomes evil with good.
He frees the guilty and sees justice done;
Who would think that he could!
Now it’s time to stop my procrastinating. Like some guilty secret threatening my sanity if I hold it in much longer, I feel compelled to risk confessing something that will further erode your opinion of my mental fitness to provide a credible account. I should have told you much earlier but I wanted you to get to know me a bit better before blurting it out. The memory of this moment, when many angels were together reminds me of what I saw in that celestial palace, because on both occasions they were similarly dressed.
Well, here goes . . . In that palace that seemed to have no end, as I gazed upon that countless number of glorious beings, each was dressed in almost-blinding white, and yet I somehow sensed that each was dressed in a different shade of pure white. I know – it’s impossible. White is white. You can get close to white, but there is only one color that is pure white. And yet . . .
I could blame the weird light in that place, as if planet earth were the standard of normality. But that feels dishonest. Having experienced what I did, it is earth, not wherever I was, that now seems the weird place. It is as if on the planet I grew up on, pure white is flat, having somehow lost an entire dimension. I guess I’ve been spoilt, but to me, white on earth now seems as disappointing as black and white television compared with color.
I’ve explained that their hair was not white, only whitish. There was no mystery about the fact that the hair of each angel seemed a different shade. I’m no color expert but it seemed to me that the hair coloring of each angel, though of course different from the color of the clothing, blended perfectly with the clothing in a way that another angel’s hair would not.
There’s an alternative explanation for what I saw. I personally find it attractive because it is less likely to get me locked away in an asylum. Perhaps at certain angles, the material of their clothing gave a hint of a gorgeous color – a little like metallic paint on cars – and perhaps because of the folds in their garments this other color was never entirely missing, even though the overall effect was that each garment was snow white. The exact shade of the almost invisible secondary color seemed unique for each angel. (At least I never noticed two angels wearing identical shades of white.) I wondered – and yes, I realize I’m again risking my reputation, but it somehow seems to ring true – whether the material in every garment was identical but that it by somehow changed according to the uniqueness of each angel.
Even if you reject the rest, fabric that at a certain angle shines a different color sounds believable. It might even be correct, but as much as I have tried to convince myself, it doesn’t sit quite right with what I saw. Whatever the explanation, from top to bottom every garment shined pure white and yet it somehow felt as if every garment was a different shade. And the myriads of different, yet identical, colors seemed to portray an individuality and yet a oneness about these beings that somehow felt right. In fact, for some reason that surpassed conscious thought, I found exhilarating the sight and the concept of an exquisite blend of uniqueness and uniformity in these spectacular beings.
It was obvious that they wanted another brand new song, “Come on, Meurel!” urged Kairel.
Meurel thought for a moment then sang:
Chebon immediately burst into:
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