[Here is the conlcusion of last week's story.....]
I reassessed my reactions to my friend’s experiences, and came to the conclusion I had overreacted. No doubt, I had allowed myself to be caught up in the success of my experiment, which clouded my objectivity. I felt confident I would be able to explain his observations without having to invoke the supernatural. By the time we met again, I would have reasonable hypotheses to discuss; I couldn’t be sure, but I suspected that my friend would have reevaluated his own impressions by then and would be ready to hear my theories.
When we met again a few weeks later, my friend was a different person. He appeared settled. The nervous agitation that characterized the great scientist I knew before had been displaced by a kind of confident resolve. He remained a man on a mission, but the desperation was gone. My friend affected an enthusiasm neither fanatical nor careless, but what I can only describe as a sober joyfulness. I have never encountered such a disposition before, which isn’t saying much because I don’t get out that often. I was happy for my friend; the change suited him. But I started to feel uncomfortable, because I began to desire what he had.
“So,” I said brusquely, handing my friend a mug of coffee and sitting across from him. “Will you now tell me the third meaning?”
“Of course, dear friend.” He took what I perceived to be an interminably long drink of his coffee. “It is love.”
“Oh, love,” I said.
“Yes, exactly. And your reaction is why I never considered it while the woman was showing me around heaven, even though love was clearly evident in everything I had seen. It should have been obvious, but I was blinded by my own skepticism of love.”
“Heaven?” I asked.
“Yes, heaven. Although I should have called it what it really is. The kingdom of heaven. By itself, the term heaven has acquired silly connotations over the centuries. Any thinking person should rightly dismiss the idea as meaningless fluff. As usual, though, the reality tears through all of our preconceived and childish notions, and first surprises us, next inspires us, and finally satisfies us.”
“So it would appear. And I suppose you are proposing this love you speak of to be of the same fiber, in that it must transcend all the inane school girl renditions of the term.”
“People throw love around as they would a fifty cent baseball. Yet they have no clue as to what it really means.” My friend paused for another sip from his mug. “And why should they?”
“Perfectly reasonable. Love is an illusion. The world is a tormented place of pain and death. It wouldn’t be this way if love were governing the universe,” I pursued.
“You just proved yourself wrong.”
“I don’t think so. Love would never produce the world we live in.”
“You could never make such an argument without love as a reference. In fact, it would never cross your mind. You are making arguments about justice that can only exist in a world actually fashioned by love.”
“It is in the genes. Altruism is a natural instinct for survival of the species. It’s known that ants will sacrifice their lives for the sake of the colony.”
“It is one thing to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of one’s clan, it is quite another to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of another’s clan—especially if doing so potentially enables the other’s clan to conquer your clan. But that is just the kind of love I am talking about. It cannot be explained by nature. The kind of instinct you are talking about has no concept of such love. A lion will eat another animal, even its own young; it is what lions do. For the time being, anyway.”
“Yet no one recognizes this love,” I quipped.
“Ironically, no. The world we bequeathed to ourselves we predicated on the single inalienable principle of self-interest. In insisting on loving ourselves first, we ended up hating everyone, including ourselves. For us, I’m afraid, love has become at best a parody of what it truly is, and at worst a weapon of our hatred. It is our hate that is behind the pain and death you rightly characterize our world, not love.”
How could I argue with him? I had long ago happily abandoned any pursuit of love for the safety of the ordered and predictable world of science. People never much liked me, and I didn’t much like them. I was beginning to wonder if I had made a horrible error--not so much by what he argued but by what I witnessed in him. The weight of those new observations weakened my carefully prepared hypotheses. As his encounters with the future were irrefutable fact, so too were the changes I saw in my friend. I knew him well as he was, and he had clearly changed. One can debate ideas all day long, but one cannot easily refute objective data.
“Okay, tell me about this love,” I said.
“By and for love, God created us in the first place. And it is by and for that same love He has restored us to His original purpose, which is the kingdom of heaven, where all is as it should be because it must be so because God is God. God does not change. There is only one right order of things because there can only be one right order of things.”
“The place you visited,” I interjected.
“Yes, but not just the physical entities, the spiritual also—the collective state of being. And what empowers and supports and drives that state is love. God’s love.
“The critically important point for us to grasp, and probably the element we have all been most blind to is the fact that love only exists—I mean, is only complete--in the right order of things, and the right order is only maintained by love. Everyone wants to create their own order, and love and be loved according to that order—to be accepted on their own terms. But this cannot be. God created the universe to operate by only one right order, and we only truly love when we love in complete compliance with that right order. And it is no more unloving for me to say this than when a father tells his child not to jump off a five hundred foot cliff. Unless we rigorously hold in tension love and order—God’s love, God’s order—we lose them both. And when that happens there is certain death and the pain and suffering it brings.”
“How can you be certain?”
“Because as an extreme act of love, God became flesh and dwelled among us, even though we despised Him and actively worked against His love. His Son Jesus, both perfect man and perfect God became a servant to us by overcoming death for us, because the death we brought on ourselves has blinded us to the right order of things and, therefore, kept us from the full power of God’s love, so we couldn’t overcome death on our own. God’s son, even though perfect and innocent, died for us, and by the inscrutable power of His love, God raised him to life. It is because Jesus lives that we can be certain, dear friend.
“I know now this is why I shouted ‘Christ’s alive!’ as I came back through the time portal. And it is by living in the living Christ that we can live again forever in the kingdom of heaven intended all along as the ineffable expression and purpose of God’s love. We live because we love God and each other completely and purely. This is His glory. And for this reason He is to be praised and worshipped forever—just as the multitudes were singing all around me. Oh, how I long to be with them again, knowing what I know now.”
“It seems that you have somehow found your way to peace. How did you do that? What did you do?” I asked.
“It’s God who has done it. I simply believe that God will not forsake His love and only in Him will I find it, not in me or others or the world we have created for ourselves. I trust He will be faithful to His promise to hold me secure in His love and fulfill the purpose for which he had created me. And I live my life in accordance with this trust. In short, I love God the Father of all by trusting Jesus Christ His son, and this by doing all, by the power of his love given to me through His Spirit, which His love demands and necessarily demands because this is how He has loved me.”
“I must think about this. We will talk about this again, my friend. I assure you, we will talk again.”
I haven’t fulfilled that promise, and it is doubtful I ever will because I believe him. I have been given a short-cut to paradise, and I am determined to take it. And why shouldn’t I? If you are reading this diary, you will know that I never found a convincing answer to that question.
I have returned my time portal to the original settings used for my friend’s trip, and programmed in a killer virus. Five minutes after I pass through the portal, it will permanently and irretrievably dismantle itself. I have also shredded and burned my notebooks. All that will remain of my experiments is the book you have in your hands and the memories my friend carries with him. Perhaps you will find it too fantastic to believe. I understand. But I hope you will find the faith to believe so that some day we can meet together over coffee to discuss it in the kingdom of the living God.