Between Stagnation and Cessation

Written February 19, 2011

Between Stagnation and Cessation

It is the root of most fears. Its fruit is anxiety, occasionally anger, and nearly always uncertainty. It comes fast or slow, with hopeful expectation and worry-filled trepidation. At some level, we yearn for it (or we should), but closer to the surface, we abhor its challenge to what we know and live.

They say it is the only thing constant. But they are wrong.

Without change, eternity would be condemnation. If things were to be forever as they are today, persevering would be ridiculous. If the only expectation was for more of the same, we would become dulled by our own lethargy in living.

If we could push past the emotional barriers to change, we would be able to admit to ourselves that it’s actually our heart’s deepest desire. Without change, there is no redemption or renewal. There is neither nostalgia nor hope. There is no better or worse.

Truly, we do not want a life—or a universe—which suffers underneath such confines. We do not want to embrace the limitations of experiencing only the known, of having no questions, no ambiguity. Of course, in my simpler moments, I express contentment to continue on, enjoying the ruts that I believe I have carved for myself—but in my honest moments I grapple with the notion that there will be something else, something different, something more.

Most often, that grappling leaves me with a twisted stomach, an emptiness which disturbs me because I have no concepts with which to fill it. Eternity. The ultimate change…after which, there will be no change. It will last forever. Forever. Never stopping. This existence will end. That one will not, and it will be so wholly—and holy—different, that I cannot conceive of what life will then mean. And that disturbs me.

There is an ultimate—truly ultimate—question to which I have no answer. Once I experience that answer, there will then be no more questions. All life is characterized by change. Whether it’s cyclical, or linear, or composed of infinite branches stemming from each possible choice, it is change. But only for now.

Perhaps my assumption is wrong. Perhaps the notion of change does not cease beyond The Great Change. Perhaps the nature of change changes. Perhaps there will still be growth, unknowns, unexpecteds, creation, destruction, and re-creation. Yet no death. No restoration to wellness (because there was no collapse into sickness). No redemption, for that work will have been completed. Deeper understanding, perhaps? Further intimacy? Productivity? The surfacing of new needs and the engagement of people to meet them?

I style myself ‘a creature of habit.’ I find great comfort in routine, great contentment in a life bereft of the unanticipated. And yet the thought of an eternity without change leaves the core of my being feeling without foundation, lacking sure footing from which to continue to press onward.

If I find myself in a season of life where I feel that mortality has become nearer, will I fight and resist, too unnerved to relax into the inevitable, to unsure of whether or not I am okay with a new existence—as if I truly had an opportunity to decline it?

I am a redeemed creature, an adopted inheritor, and yet I am unsure that I want to embrace an estate of such character. Rigor mortis somewhat deflates me, the stagnation of life brought on by death.

Yet at the same time, I believe instead that what is promised is vigor mortis—a quality of life that could not be achieved without death. But death is ending. It is an ending to everything I know…or nearly so. It is the closing, not just of a chapter or even a book, but the series of my entire experience. And then it is as if books will be no more, perhaps not even the book of my own past. Instead, I will have to become literate in a new way, which I cannot even yet categorize. However, embarking on it, will it not be as though simply repeating the same syllable—not even an entire word!—ad infinitum?

Life to the full. Eternal life that is knowing the only true God. Granted now—and yet do these continue on? Faith will not. Hope will not. Love remains.

I cannot describe the changes or make myself excited about their prospect. All I can do is to cling to what will not change—and to realize that even the love and relationship which will carry me into the next season will not cease its variegation then. Eternity is not unpunctuated equilibrium. It will give us to be boundless in our capacity for growth, hosting innumerable changes, uncountably infinite in its steps and facets. And somehow, I will be okay with that.


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