My earliest thoughts around the idea of eternity occurred to me as a child. Sitting on one of the hard, wooden pews in the small country church I attended, I found myself wrestling with this most challenging of concepts. I was a religious kid, at least on Sunday mornings, when my family and I would don our Sunday best and travel several miles to our place of worship. We picked up Grandma on the way, whom I would sit next to during the hour-long service, mostly because she would share with me the candies she had wrapped in the white silk handkerchief discreetly hidden inside her purse. It was there, beside Grandma, that I would ponder all manner of things pertaining to God, where time and again I would return to my thoughts on eternity.
I’d like to say that my budding theology around this subject led me to a greater sense of awe at the mystery of God. Then, I would worship him in child-like amazement, having the clearest of understanding that my eternal destiny lie in the presence of my Creator in a wonderful place called Heaven. My childhood fear, however, was that there was the ever-growing possibility that I might spend eternity, not in Heaven, but in the place of perpetual torment called Hell.
To say that Hell frightened me would be a gross understatement. The idea of Satan and his demons, a fiery pit, and everlasting pain and suffering terrified me. Fear was a constant childhood companion, one that would only ease its cruel-hearted harassment once I received my first, sweet taste of God’s infinite love and undeserved mercy. Still, sitting next to Grandma, I felt hundreds of miles away from any sort of grace that God had to offer.
(To be continued…)