Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 25, 2002
Prepare for the joy of paradise
In one of his last books, Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen tells the tale of two twins talking to each other in the womb.
The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth."
The brother objected: "No, this is all there is. This place is comfortable. We have to get all that we can from the cord that feeds us."
But the little girl insisted: "There must be something more than this dark place. There must be a place where there is light and freedom to move."
The brother remained unconvinced.
After a period of silence, the girl spoke again: "I have something else to say. I think there is a mother."
"A mother!" the boy shouted.
"Whatever gave you such an idea? This place is all that we have. This is a good and comfortable place, so let's make the best of it."
At first, the sister didn't dare to say anything more.
But she could not let go of her thoughts, so she said, "Don't you feel those painful squeezes every once in awhile?
"I believe those squeezes are getting us ready to live in a place much more beautiful than this. We may even get to see our mother face to face."
The boy did not answer. He was fed up with all this foolish talk. The girl, however, continued to wonder and to prepare herself for life in a place where light and beauty and freedom reign.
The story of the twins is our story. And it has a moral: Remember death . . . and get yourself a life.
In North America, we live in the fun culture. Fun is the highest value.
Everything else should prepare us for having fun. We manage our money and our time so we can have a good time.
Some people even choose their careers so they can get the most time off work or the earliest retirement for one reason - to maximize their fun.
I have a friend whose close relative died an unfortunate early death. The lesson it taught him was not to lose time: Have as much fun as you can as soon as you can.
Another acquaintance saw several co-workers die. His response was to buy a motor home.
The little girl in Nouwen's story tells us there may be more to life than this.
There is a place much more beautiful than the one we now inhabit.
The girl's insight was profoundly disturbing to her younger brother. He could see no further than "the cord that feeds us."
To talk of another world after birth - and after death - and to live as though this world is real undercuts the assumption that the world of fun is the highest end.
Fun is a good thing . . . in its right place.
We will have lots of fun this Easter. Smiles and laughter will abound. There will be candy for the children and maybe a special meal for everyone.
But when you see that Christ is risen, one's perspective changes.
Suddenly we want to prepare ourselves for a world where light and beauty and freedom reign.
Christ's crucifixion frees us from the world where sin is supreme. His resurrection and ascension give us clues about where we are bound.
Suffering is no longer unmitigated evil.
Pleasure is nice, but nothing compared to what we will experience when we are with God.
Death is evil and often tragic.
But it is also the doorway into a world where our deepest desires are met in a way beyond our imagining.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
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