During this time of year, when our breath is full of the longing, “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” I cannot help but remember what those words meant to me as a child.
Growing up as a conservative evangelical, we didn’t talk about Jesus coming back much during Advent. And I couldn’t be happier about that fact. You see, there was a year-round sense that Jesus was going to come at any moment. But this time, Jesus was all grown up and furious. He was returning to judge with that double-edged sword coming out of his mouth. The end of the world was drawing near; the thousand-year gloaming would begin, as the sun would grow as black as ashes, and the moon would be full of blood.
These disturbing images haunted me for eleven months of the year. They grew up inside of me along with the news of nuclear bombs, the cold war, and arms races. The apocalyptic visions made too much sense as our country was learning about the long-term effects of radiation. I was actually pretty happy to get a break from them during December, when we would sing carols and talk about the first time Jesus came, as a baby in a manger.
For the rest of the year, I never understood the glee that the preacher had when he talked about the second coming. He couldn’t wait for the day–the dispensation when Satan would roam and rule the earth. Of course, there was a good chance that we would be raptured, taken up into heaven before all of the destruction. That way we could gloat. We could watch all the suffering from our cloudy pillows, and finally get some payback for all the persecution that had been heaped upon us.
That was a tenuous “we,” because from the preacher’s calculations, there were only about a handful of people who were going to be taken up. There weren’t a whole lot of people who were saved enough. I always felt like I was in limbo. Strangely, the rapture option seemed even worse to me than living with all the wars.
Every few years, someone would come up with an actual date when all of this would occur. I always tried to laugh it off. But I’d be scared. To calm myself, I would ask, “What will I say to Jesus when I see him?” And then I’d try to imagine a Jesus without the white hair and fire eyes.
Of course, my experience was probably unique. I was growing up in the South, in a very conservative, religious family. But, then again, I can’t be the only one with these childhood fears cooked up in my congregation.
I couldn’t help but notice how the Left Behind series sold millions. Jerry Jenkins was the writer in residence at Moody Bible Institute when I was there. When I was in Louisiana, some members of my congregation couldn’t get enough of the books. LaHaye and Jenkins obviously tapped into a very vast stream of fear and thrill in our country.
For me, the prayer “Come, Lord Jesus” is scarier than just about anything I can imagine. Of course, I’ve reconstructed my view of the Kingdom of God, tapping into the hope of Moltmann and the inspiration of Rauschenbusch. But, even as I write, as a grown woman, I have that same fear growing up from my belly and clenching my throat. It has become a part of my emotional intelligence. And it makes me wonder: How many people in our congregations had this experience?
The photo’s of a Japanese clock that was melted by a WWII nuclear bomb, taken by maebmij