Leaving Eden

For all those not living in South Florida, it’s winter again. And there’s always a noticeable cold snap this time of year just to remind you of what you may be ignoring on your calendar: a new year is coming. I’m sure it only seems like yesterday that you were excitedly turning the page to a brand new 2012. But here we are again. The cycle of life has spun once more.

Sometimes it feels about as interesting as watching a bicycle wheel go round and round. Soon the frost will thaw, the birds will begin to sing, and the world will come back to life. Until the first leaf drops. Again. And before you know it, we’re back to buying new calendars.

This is how we live, in cycles. Kids plan how to use summer break, every year. Adults plan their allotted vacation days, every year. Television networks plan fall lineups, every year. Apocalyptic predictions notwithstanding, whatever we did last year chances are we’ll do again this year.

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No wonder no one’s excited about heaven. Sure, many of us may not actually think of it in terms of harps and fat babies. But even if we do think of the new heavens and the new earth—even the new Jerusalem, we tend to think of it as Eden 2.0. The fire and brimstone of Armageddon will knock the clock back a few millennia, but for all intents and purposes, we’re looking forward to a rehashed paradise.

Now you don’t need to know biblical Greek to catch what’s amiss here. When John wrote a “new” heaven and a “new” earth in Revelation 21, he meant “new” as we understand the word today. Not in the commercial sense (“new look, same great taste!”), but in the very real, unprecedented connotation of the word. And I think I can vouch for what’s intended here.

It’s been ten years since my four-person immediate family has celebrated Christmas together. That’s because my parents got divorced and years of multi-headed animosity ensued.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for God to restore my family. I wanted “the good old days” back. But that’s impossible now. There are new marriages, a new remarriage, and a new grandchild. The family I grew up with will never look the same. But this past Christmas, God chose to recreate my family. We were all together, yet it wasn’t the same. And I like to think that we’re all better people now through this process of recreation.

God could have chosen to restore our family to what it once was. Instead, he chose to make something new. It’s still too early to tell what will come of all this. But needless to say, it’s exciting. And a little scary. I think that’s how we were meant to live. Not placidly turning calendar pages, but anticipating the “new.”