I spent a great deal of my adolescence, and then some, wearing scarves over my head as I rode on roller coasters, spraying hairspray in a vain attempt to thwart the weather, and feeling somehow unworthy of being an "American Girl" with my zingy mop. I was so unlike anyone else I knew.
In Rob Bell's brilliant and controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell and the Fate of Every Person On Earth, he talks about heaven, which in the Greek translation of the New Testament is either another word for "God" or the word--aion--which actually means the "future age." The Time to Come. And it will be an earthy time, not people floating about in white sheets, playing boring music on harps, and wondering when the single malt scotch is going to make its first appearance.
According to everything Bell has found in the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, he convincingly argues that this age to come will be the time when God makes judgments against those who harm and oppress others; who violate children and rape women; who instigate wars and genocide and more. In order to visualize this Age to Come we need to think about what we love doing most on this earth now. When do we most feel ourselves? When do we lose sight of time because we are so absorbed in an activity? What would we be lost without? Because those are the very things we will carry with us into the Age to Come--art, justice, care for creation, being with children, and more. For me that would be writing, because I just don't feel like a whole human being when I am not writing.
This gives me furiously to think, as Hercule Poirot used to say. In the Time to Come what would God have to say about my hated hair? Perhaps it would be transformed into straight and flowing locks, along with a similar transformation of my heart into something bigger and more merciful than a hard walnut. Perhaps said heart would become big enough to reach out to the poor of the world; to my neighbors who are too shy to meet the people on our street; to the toothless, homeless man who sits on the streets of Northampton, tin can by his aide; to so many who say in words or actions, "I need. I want."
Somehow hair doesn't seem so important now, even as I continue to struggle with it. Somehow the idea of becoming the person I am called to be looms larger.
In the parable where the rich man asks Jesus what he must do to acquire eternal life, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and to give to the poor. A tough response to put into practice. Bell interprets this as Jesus putting his finger on the very place which keeps this man's heart from being transformed--his greed.
Ouch. Is my pathetic concern with my frizzy locks keeping me from shalom? From contentment with the world I have been given? Does it prevent me from reaching out to others because I am too focused on myself?
Yeah, that one. I've got some work to do. I need to offer this up in prayer and ask as Anne Lamott does, helphelphelp, one of her favorite prayers. Help me to learn to accept who I am. Help me to move on and not get stuck in ridiculous things. Help my walnut-sized heart expand to meet the needs of others. And then I will be working towards the Age to Come at the same time I am partnering with God to bring heaven into this day, this week, this earth, this present time.