Looking For Paradise
It was just another Monday afternoon when, like clockwork, a knock at the front door announced Mary's presence. I like Mary. She's a short fiery lady with dark hair and pointed glasses who is never without a fine string of pearls around her slender neck. If I had to guess, I'd say she's in her 50s by the style of her shoes and the wrinkles in her complexion, but her eyes are always lit with a childlike spark - always ready to laugh. She dresses classy no matter what the weather, and she always remembers everyone's name - my children, my dog, she knows us all. Normally, I am happy to see her, but today, I wasn't quite prepared.
She comes as a representative of the Jehovah's Witness Outreach. Sometimes we are on a similar page, but I don't always agree with everything that she shares... I mean, she's not wrong, it does say that... but it's so literal... it's just so literal.... I do my best to listen with an open mind, because well, I know that she does the same for me. I listen, I acknowledge the parts we agree on, and then I share. She listens to my perspective tilting her head to the left and drawing her hooked finger up to her cocked right ear, as if waiting for it to make some kind of sense. Sometimes she says, "Well, I agree with that basis, but it says THIS right HERE," and reads another passage that she takes quite literally. Other times, she takes a slow breath in and moves her finger to her lips saying, "Huh... That's an interesting perspective, I never thought of it that way... Thank you." Never does she argue or tell me I am wrong. Always she is cordial, polite, and gracious. I hope I do the same for her. I like to think I do.
My conversations with Mary are usually enjoyable. They give me an opportunity to reflect on my faith., to come to a deeper understanding of how different truths can be merged, to really think about what I believe, what I feel in my heart is true, and how I want to share it in the world. This week, I was not quite prepared for her. It had been an emotional morning and I wasn't sure I was in the mood. But, I grew up in a home with a father who liked to pretend we weren't home when people like this came knocking, and I knew that I didn't want to do that. I wanted to respect this woman's time and effort. Time is of course our most valuable commodity, and this woman finds the time to stop in and talk to me every week out of concern for my soul. I can't say that I believe that concern is warranted, but still, I appreciate that. So, I opened the door with the intention of telling her I wasn't in the mood, but as soon as that door was opened, I felt a great rush of ease. I can spare a few minutes, I thought to myself, and I fell into the moment, with Mary and her laughing eyes. And I did what I normally do, I smiled and I listened. She read a passage after which she asked, "So, do you believe that is possible?"
"Do I believe what is possible?" I asked a bit confused. I had listened but it had never occurred to me to doubt. I believe everything is possible!
"Do you believe it is possible that God will ever restore this world to Paradise? That there will ever be Paradise here on earth and that man will get to live in it forever?"
I smiled, half fighting the urge to laugh. "Can you clarify?" I asked.
"It says right here that Paradise will return to earth, that there will be no war and no death, and that man will live forever in Paradise just as God originally intended! Do you believe that is possible?"
"Yes! I do believe that is possible... but I kind of think it is more than possible... Really I look at it as though Paradise is here NOW. I believe that Paradise is always right here.... we never left Paradise. Just because we do not always see it, doesn't mean it isn't here and available. This world in all its beauty is Paradise and there is love and goodness enough right here for everything in it!"
"Well," she said notably puzzled, " I mean, that's true, the world is beautiful and there is goodness... but there is also war and famine and suffering in our world right now, don't you think?"
"Yes, but maybe that's just what we are creating in it out of our lack of vision?" I asked. She remained silent, so I continued. "I think that Paradise is eternal. Paradise is always right here and love is always available... God never took that away... it is we who closed our perception of it. It is we who block ourselves from receiving that love and living in that Paradise. What if we create these sub realities of our less-than Paradise through our own limited perceptions that become the basis for unfounded and fearful actions? That doesn't make Paradise go away, it just affects what we are able to see of it... "
"I think I understand what you are saying... and yes, I guess that could make sense... there are certainly many things within ourselves that could separate us from God's love. ..." she looked down at her hands fumbling through her pages, "but it does say that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden... and that Paradise will be restored in the future when Christ returns."
And I'm starting to remember it's all the same it's just a matter of different angles.
"I like you, Mary," I say, "I like you because I imagine you feel called to do what you are doing and you are out here knocking on doors in 100 degree heat or 20 degree cold answering that call."
"Yes," she nodded, "It's not always what I've done, but it's what I've found."
"I have a call, too," I continue, "My call is to help people open that perception. God calls me to help them recognize that they are worthy of that love and that paradise right here and right now. I think it is up to us to restore it. I think that as more and more people come to see this truth, we will step into the reality of that Paradise together. My God doesn't kick people out. My God is compassionate... I think it's our own fear and self-judgement that separates us from that Paradise." And I do sense that this is my calling but I've never really worded it that way before because I'm always dancing around the God concept and it kind of feels good not to do that for once.
"Of course God is compassionate!," she says, "What about the part about no more death?" she asks, changing the subject.
"Of course I believe that's possible." I say, thinking in my head that we are spirit and of course spirit lives forever but knowing in my heart of hearts that she is talking about a physical existence that lasts forever and deciding to be okay with that. After all, anything is possible, and forever is forever in any form.