Friday, November 18, 2005

It's Worth It

I’ve been writing for the past week on the call of the Gospel and how all our efforts toward fidelity and love are well worth the great reward of the heavenly Paradise. I’d like to share a story here from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov that highlights the marvelous glory that awaits us. (It is given in the form of a dialogue with a number of breaks in it, but here I will just present the story. In the novel, the devil discounts it as the kind of thing believed only by “two-hundred-fifty-pound merchants’ wives,” but that’s the devil for you!)

“There was a certain thinker and philosopher who rejected all—laws, conscience, faith, and, above all, the future life. He died and thought he’d go straight into darkness and death, but no—there was the future life before him. He was amazed and indignant: ‘This,’ he said, ‘goes against my convictions.’ So for that he was sentenced to walk in darkness a quadrillion kilometers, and once he finished that quadrillion, the doors of paradise would be open to him and he would be forgiven everything.

“Well, so this man sentenced to the quadrillion stood awhile, looked, and then lay down across the road: ‘I don’t want to go; I refuse to go on principle!’ Take the soul of an enlightened Russian atheist and mix it with the soul of the prophet Jonah, who sulked in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights—you’ll get the character of this thinker lying in the road.

“He lay there for nearly a thousand years, and then got up and started walking. [He eventually walked the quadrillion kilometers.] The moment the doors of paradise were opened and he went in, before he had been there two seconds, he exclaimed that for those two seconds, it would be worth walking not just a quadrillion kilometers, but a quadrillion quadrillion, even raised to the quadrillionth power!”

That's the overwhelming, exhilarating, all-inviting wonder of the brilliant glory of the life to come in God. That's how worthy it is of our love and sacrifice and suffering. Truly, it has not yet dawned on us what God has prepared for those who love Him. We sell heaven short, we don’t give God credit for being God, the Creator of the universe and the Lover of Mankind, who is more than willing to give us unimaginable riches, inconceivable glories and undreamed of happiness—just for saying “yes” to what He has revealed, putting it into practice, and enduring the hardships of this swiftly-passing life with undying trust in Him. People throw it all away for the sake of ephemeral pleasures and the cheap satisfactions of human pride, ambition, or greed—but if only they knew that Heaven was worth walking 1,000,000,000,000,0001000000000000000 kilometers in hope!

These days fewer people seem to “set their hearts on things above” (Colossians 3:1-2), even those who call themselves Christian. Heaven (if they believe in it at all) is understood as at best a happy postscript to this life—instead of the everlasting love story that follows the prologue which is this life. Heaven is our destiny, that for which we were created. Who would wish to cast aside that marvelous glory, that supremely desirable bliss in the presence of God, with every precious and delightful blessing that an infinitely loving Mind can come up with? Nothing on earth is worth risking the eternal loss of Heaven. Nothing.