It was the strangest and most thrilling case he had ever had. He was a detective, a private investigator. Clients hired him to find out things for them, to solve mysteries. This case, however was a mystery that he could not solve. Even though there were a lot of clues, he couldn’t figure out the answer. It was a mystery that was finally shown to him. He just had to pay attention to the right sources.
The case was brought to him by a group of clients – angels. Not little fat Valentine cherubs. Big, powerful, authoritative, intimidating. Real angels. He was certainly surprised when they showed up in his office. He always thought angels knew it all, or at least could ask their Boss. They admitted that they knew a lot, but not everything. Even more amazing – this case was something God wasn’t going to tell them outright. They had to get it from humans. So, they hired the detective.
The case centered on three people – very different people – a woman, a teenager, and a man. Different ages, different races, different backgrounds, different lifestyles. Same problem. The detective took the case, and his first move was to investigate each of the three subjects.
He found out quite soon that the woman was a very religious person. She seemed to know a lot of God-stuff. Commandments, laws, rules – she knew them all and obeyed them all. She did a lot of religious activity. She had been sprinkled when she was a baby, and then she got herself immersed – dunked – just to make sure. She went to church all the time – meetings every week, sometimes almost every day of the week. She prayed a lot, even in restaurants. She tuned in to every TV and radio program and every website that claimed to have the real explanations of God and life. The woman didn’t just read the Bible; she memorized it – single verses and long passages, even the genealogies and some of the study notes! Doctrines, teachings, principles, prophecies – she had it all worked out and was very satisfied with it. She was right and she knew it and she could prove it. She seemed to have this God-stuff all boxed and wrapped in a neat little package, so she lived by well-used clichés and inspirational sayings. After investigating her for awhile, the detective noticed something pretty startling – whenever God tried to get close to her, the woman got religious and moved away. She acted like she knew all about God, but she didn’t even know he was there.
The investigator checked out the teenager next. That was fun. Fun was what her life was all about! She was a nice kid – not a goody-good dork, but a likeable person. She had a lot of friends and they stayed in close contact and did a lot of things together. She accepted just about everyone, as long as they didn’t try to push her. She believed that everyone has the right to live the way he wants as long as he doesn’t try to force it on anyone else. Everybody’s values can contribute to the great circle of life – take what you like, what works for you, and have fun with it. She definitely believed in God – thought he was a great guy! Sometimes something serious would come up, and she would think about it and talk to her friends about it, then ask God to bless it and make it all work out for her – yeah, he was a great guy! It didn’t take long for the detective to see that whenever God tried to get close to the teenager, she would run off to find something fun to do.
Then there was the third person, the man. The detective did not enjoy investigating him at all. He was absolutely raunchy. He was violent – anyone who crossed him was in danger of serious harm – physical, emotional, whatever it took for him to do them in. He controlled and used people by running over them, by abusing them. He was very intelligent. His mind was like a cold steel trap. He knew how to bait people – how to make it look like he was on their side – how to manipulate and destroy them – for his own benefit. Most, actually all, of the people in his life suffered because of him. He was hedonistic to the core – whatever gave him physical or emotional or mental pleasure was his game. No restraints, no limitations – get all you can out of life. This man didn’t know if there is a God or not. In fact, he didn’t care. He was going to live his own way anyway. Everyone else be damned. The detective wasn’t too surprised to see that when God tried to get close to him, the man felt threatened and pushed God away.
The investigation went on long enough that the detective witnessed the three people crossing each others’ paths. From time to time, they happened to meet. But they wouldn’t have anything to do with each other. Each one distrusted, despised, and condemned the other two.
The angels who hired the detective knew all of this. They wanted to know something else. And here’s where the investigation ran into a brick wall. The angels wanted to know: what was God going to do with those three people? How was he going to get close to each one? How was he going to manage to bring them to himself? If he accepted religiousness, the woman would be okay, but the teenager and the man would be left out. If God just acted like a great guy and made everything easy and fun, the teenager would find him, but not the man or the woman. And if the Lord rewarded self-reliance and take-what-you-want aggressiveness, the man would come out the winner, but the woman and teenager would be losers. In fact, if God accepted any of the three the way they were, he would be contradicting his own nature of justice and holiness.
What was God going to do with them?
To be continued…
BEEEP! Major was startled by the car horn. He shivered. He must have dozed off. Traffic was really heavy. Stop and go, mostly stop. Major glanced in the rear-view mirror, then shifted into D and inched forward until his car was just a couple feet behind another – a red something. He couldn’t identify the make. As a matter of fact, the vehicle in the mirror – a kind of silver SUV – was unknown to him. Strange – he could usually tell a car’s manufacturer, although it wasn’t as easy as it used to be.
Something else felt strange. Major drove home from work every day on I-25 through Denver and always had to deal with heavy traffic. But right now he couldn’t actually remember today’s drive. How long had he been asleep? At least no one had rammed him. The inside of the car had gotten cold so he turned on the heater.
Major looked around. More strangeness. This stretch of the highway seemed kind of familiar but not really. Four lanes – no, wait a minute – six…eight…twelve lanes! The lanes he first assumed were coming from the opposite direction were actually all going the same way he was. There were no oncoming lanes. What is going on? What has CDOT done now?
He looked beyond the highway. As in all his rush hour treks, he saw buildings crowding along the interstate. Varying heights and sizes, but all of them a dull brownish-gray color. Major didn’t recognize any of them. And there was no signage identifying the buildings. Looking around, he saw no signs of any kind – no street signs, no traffic signs, no exit signs – nothing. Whoa! No streets! No exits or entrances on the highway! He tapped the power button of the car radio – nothing came on. He punched station buttons – still nothing, not even static. Major felt very uncomfortable.
Traffic was at a complete standstill. Major looked ahead. The road was making a long incline, and he couldn’t see beyond about a mile. Then he noticed a few people had gotten out of their vehicles and were talking together. Seemed like a good idea. He pulled on his jacket and got out of his car. Strange – it was warmer outside. He removed his jacket and put it back in his car. He walked forward between the lanes of traffic. Every time he passed a vehicle he heard the doors being locked. As he approached a trio of people, two of them – a woman and a teenage boy – walked away. An older man remained and waited for him.
“Hey,” said Major. The older man nodded.
Major went on, bypassing any chit chat, “Do you know what’s going on?”
The man glanced at the pavement then stared at Major. After a few seconds he spoke: “Yeah, I think we figured it out.”
Major waited but the man didn’t say anything else. Major asked, “Well, what is it?”
The man took a deep breath and said, “We’re dead.”
“What!? What the hell are you talking about?”
“There’s no other explanation. That woman…” The man pointed. Major looked over at the woman who had walked away, now standing next to another generic car. “She was jogging and crossed the street then suddenly ‘woke up’ in that car. The boy was riding a horse, and he came to in that car.” The old man pointed at a blue “something” then continued, “I was watching Jeopardy on TV and all of a sudden I’m sitting in this car. She must have been run over. His horse must have bucked him off. I must have had a heart attack – been expecting it. There’s no other explanation. What were you doing?”
Major immediately answered defiantly, “I was driving home from work just like I do every day! You’re crazy!”
“Do you actually remember it?”
Major thought. Then he said, “I remember getting in my car in the parking lot and leaving and then… Okay, it gets fuzzy after that.”
The old man said, “Right. We’re dead.” He got in his white car of some kind and locked the door.
Major leaned against the car behind him. The horn honked and Major jumped away. He stood between the cars. For a few seconds he panicked. He took a few deep breaths and calmed himself. Well, maybe someone had rammed him after all. Okay, no big deal, everyone has to die. Now what?
He looked up and down the lanes of traffic. Total gridlock. No one was moving. He decided to walk. He had always been assertive, confident, moving forward. No need to change now. He walked between two lanes of unmoving cars, pickups, SUVs, even motorcycles.
Major thought back to what had transpired the last half hour or so. He had shivered when he “woke up” in the car. It was cold and he turned on the heater. Of course – the chill of death. But that had not lasted. Death was over. Now it’s warm and comfortable. It’s going to be okay.
Suddenly the vehicles in all the lanes moved forward. Should he go back and get in his car? He turned and looked back. About a half mile back, a large truck of some kind was pushing his car – he recognized it but didn’t know it – off the highway. No worries. The traffic stopped again after moving only about a car length.
Major resumed walking forward, up the inclining highway. A little further on and he could see clouds above the… not “earth” – he didn’t know what to call it now. Anyway, clouds billowing outward and upward. Kind of pretty. Yeah, it’s going to be okay.
The incline got noticeably steeper and after about 15 more minutes he saw a glow above the horizon. Light! Beautiful! Major felt warm, comfortable, peaceful. His beliefs about death and the afterlife were being confirmed. It’s going to be wonderful.
Occasionally the 12 lanes of traffic moved forward a few feet, gradually making progress. Major was making more progress by walking on his own. The grade increased and walking became more like climbing. The clouds and glowing light motivated him to keep going. As he approached the top of the hill he became more and more excited.
Finally, the crest. On the other side the highway dropped away sharply. A mile below, all of the traffic disappeared into the glow. Some of the vehicles were attempting to back up, but it was useless – everyone was packed together tightly and the steep decline pulled them down. Major whispered his realization: “Oh…hell.”
“And broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” – Jesus (Matthew 7:13)
I like to watch TV shows about cars. If you don’t, please stay with me. I’m going somewhere with this. Anyway, shows about cars – the ones where they work on them, like rebuilding a classic that has been wrecked or has sat in somebody’s barn for years. It’s been some time since I watched many of these shows, but recently I’ve had a chance to take in a few.
I’m noticing a trend in some of these programs. More and more of the actions in the broadcasts don’t have anything to do with working on the cars. I guess it’s some kind of human interest development. They will show the “stars” in conflict, arguing about this or that – drama! Or they will focus on the head guy lamenting about the fast approaching deadline to finish the project; invariably he’ll express his doubt that they will get it done (my advice: get off camera and get to work!), but they always do finish in time. Sometimes they’ll show the shop employees playing around – pulling a practical joke or getting into a food fight or whatever. There are also scenes that are obviously set up to produce more drama, like breaking a part that took weeks to find. Then there’s something like this: 4-5 minutes of a one hour episode depicted one man rounding up and taking away a rooster that hung around the shop and crowed once in awhile. Seven and one half percent (my randomly calculated estimate) of the show about a rooster! These programs are not about the cars.
A different kind of program focuses more on the cars. Now, they’re not training videos that give a detailed process, but most of the episode will be showing the actual work that goes into restoring/upgrading the vehicle. The various shop employees use their different ideas, creativity, and skills to produce the finished product. Interactions between the people, handling problems, and playing around are shown, but not to the extent of the other kind of program. In these shows, the “stars” are engaged in something bigger than themselves.
Seeing this difference made me think about the reality that we can be engaged in something bigger than ourselves. Even bigger than a restored car or anything else.
Mark describes Jesus beginning his ministry like this. Mark 1:14-20.
The kingdom of God. That’s the project that’s bigger than us.
I’m not going to get into an explanation of the kingdom of God very much. The main point I want to make is that following Jesus is not just about ourselves. There’s something bigger that Jesus calls us for. Something that will change the world. His kingdom. His project. Jesus is bringing about a restored way of living for humanity. And everyone of us can be engaged in that.
I encourage you to find out more about what that looks like and how you fit in. Join up with others who get it and be part of something big (really big!).
I should probably be watching fewer car shows so I can be better engaged in the kingdom!
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