By Penny Brink, Assistant Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
I remember playing for hours at make-believe as a little girl with my siblings. My mom built us a little playhouse equipped with all kinds of simple toys and our imaginations ruled the day. We played at “mommies” with dolls and races with cars, built houses and forts with furniture and blankets. We especially loved the stories and the “happily ever afters.”
The Trouble With Growing up
It’s all a child can do, really. We are not there yet, so we project. Often enough our projections are full of hope. But the trouble with growing up is that our expectation of “happily ever after” too often becomes more of an “Oh no, what do we do now…?” What do we do when reality will not cooperate with our bold imagined vision of how life should be? How do we keep things real without the cynicism that gives up hope in our families, church and society?
Sometimes we feel that going back to the “good old days” is the answer
“What do we do now,” as a church, for instance, for the 21.3 million refugees and displaced people around the world¾ and half of them being children under the age of 18? That’s more than our total Adventist membership worldwide. “What do we do now” as a family, about the nearly 50 million children, globally, who are at risk from conflict and crisis? “What do we do now,” as individuals, about the rapid rate of deforestation that is destroying the environment? These problems seem insurmountable. How do we stem the tide and bring hope?
Good Old Days
Sometimes we feel that going back to the “good old days” is the answer. But reality prompts me to ask, “Tell me when, in all of history, things were ever completely wonderful?”
Was it when there were little white picket fences around our yards? When Dad would arrive home from his white or blue collar job with Mom and kids watching eagerly for him ¾ newspaper and dinner waiting? Was that an era ¾ a lifestyle that evidenced good Christian values? Did everyone live that dream? Were there no social ills or global evils taking place in those days? Can we be certain that that is where we want to return to—for those old enough to remember such a time?
Perhaps we need to go back to before the industrial revolution, or wait, before the invention of gun powder. Yes, that’s where I’d like to go back to. Back when someone who wanted to do another person bodily harm had to do it with their bare hands. Surely the murder rate was lower then? Terrorism was not an issue either. We wouldn’t have all the other beneficial advances such as modern medicine or telecommunications but then, again, perhaps we wouldn’t need them because we’d be living closer to nature ¾ healthier, more peaceful lives. Or were there troubles then too?
How far back do we need to go, or regress, to find Utopia?
Backward or Forward?
Maybe that’s just it. We need to go forward, not backward.Progress. Of course. To get to the point where we can actually settle on Mars…, with no assurance of returning within our lifetimes, mind you. Is that really going to be so “great?”
As I understand it, to truly find utopia would be to go back to the Garden of Eden, before sin came in and made us all selfish (see Genesis 1-3). Or skip to the part where Jesus makes the earth and us ¾ those who allow Him to ¾ new again. Is that your understanding too?
How do we live with God’s Kingdom values now? Put rules and policies in place?
What can we do in the meantime? Clearly something needs to be done. How do we live with God’s Kingdom values now? Put rules and policies in place? It may already be time to accept that having rules that constitute justice or freedom is not the guarantee we wish it would be. We know too well that the rules can all be overturned in a day.
The only hope we have is the love of God. Only as we submit our own lives to Him and allow the Holy Spirit to take over our natures, daily, can the love of God flow through us to others. It’s a personal thing. Individual Christians is where it starts. And love is the only method. It’s what Jesus came to show us about the Father.
Here is a passage that really shakes me up: “Hearts that respond to the influence of the Holy Spirit are the channels through which God’s blessing flows. Were those who served God removed from the earth, and His Spirit withdrawn from among men, this world would be left to desolation and destruction, the fruit of Satan’s dominion. Though the wicked know it not, they owe even the blessings of this life to the presence, in the world, of God’s people whom they despise and oppress. But if Christians are such in name only, they are like the salt that has lost its savor. They have no influence for good in the world. Through their misrepresentation of God they are worse than unbelievers” (The Desire of Ages, 306).
Lord, help me, I find myself crying. The only way Your Spirit can reach others with Your love is through my fellow Christians and me. And I’m so often confused.
I suggest that wanting to make any place on this earth heaven is playing at make-believe—unless we face the reality described in the passage quoted above. We must let nothing diminish the truth that it is through humans like you and me that God wants others to experience His saving love. We have to be those channels of God’s love. Not to make any place on this earth “heaven,” because heaven is another place. But if we focus on that place, we may make this world a better place. In the meantime. Until Jesus comes. Because we want to be ready. With many others. For a perfect eternity!