Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Parts Unknown

And Enoch walked with God, and Enoch was not, for God took him.

This has to be one of the most evocative phrases in all of scripture, obscuring more than it reveals. How was Enoch taken? Where? Most importantly, why? I’ve heard sermons about Enoch’s close relationship with God, in the “just a closer walk with Thee” sense, and that may well be the verse’s emphasis, but the passage doesn’t say that. God’s reasons are unclear.

They are unclear, as well, for the death of my father-in-law three months ago. Just as with Enoch’s translation, it’s not mine to know the reason. There may not be any reason at all, in the end. All we know is that he was with us and now he is not.

That’s certainly one of the most disconcerting parts of a death for the survivors. How does one comprehend that absence? It’s so difficult to understand because it doesn’t fit our patterns.

Saved or not saved? Those terms aren’t useful to me in this process. Ernie was a faithful man: faithful to God, faithful to his family, faithful to his beliefs. That’s good enough for me right now. I believe in heaven, and I know Ernie is in heaven. I have no idea what heaven is, outside of the presence of God. It’s another of those mysteries of scripture.

Of course I want to know. I don't care about the “streets are made of gold” stuff—I just want to know where he is. I miss him. I want to know if he perceives what we’re up to these days, what his grandsons are doing, how much his daughter—my wife—misses him. Does he hear his wife—now a widow at 57—when she talks to him at the graveside? Does he long to talk to her?

To me heaven is knowing the answers. Being with God, and knowing the answers to things we don’t understand. I think that’s the greatest longing of the human heart—as St. Paul wrote, to know even as we are known. Surely that’s the end of our striving, all the prayers, readings, church attendance, talking, thinking.

We believe that God, the creator, knows us intimately; our thoughts, motives, fears, desires, all on display for God to see. Since we’re known in such detail, 1 Corinthians 13:12 means that we will have the answers to our various “whys?” . . . won’t we?

Thank you, St. Augustine, for your words: My soul is restless, Lord, till it rests in Thee.

Rest in peace, Ernie, until we embrace you again.


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