TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Before the jet even landed, a rich green and blue light came to my eyes and into the deep part of me. We were flying over each of the islands of our 50th State, Hawai’i, soon to land in the northern-most island (the “Garden Island”) of Kaua’i.
I’d been there before, a few times. Each time however, for some strange reason, it feels like coming home. I’m not the only one who feels that way, I know. I’m still trying to figure out how a Welsh-Scottish-Jewish-Cherokee man like me settles and exhales in a place that is so totally unlike anything I grew up in, nor have ancestors from. A “past life”…lost “DNA Memory”? Maybe, after all, we can’t always explain everything.
Whatever it is, walking out of the airport into the warm tradewinds, catching the scent of flowers we don’t have in Indiana, my shoes making footprints in the red dirt, hearing the waves, looking up to the emerald-green-velvet mountains topped with the ever-present mist – all work on my soul. It is medicine. It renews me. It inspires me.
It is “paradise”…or IS it?
When we arrived at the condo, we unpacked (made sure the air conditioning was working) and checked out the place. Outside the waves were breaking at two to three feet on a rocky shore, the palms were blowing in the tradewind breeze, and the ever present sound of birds (some chickens as well) were in the air. Then I saw an “official-looking” letter sitting on the coffee table. I picked it up and read words that jarred me into memories of being a child in the 60s, in a government town on the “first strike” target map of Russia; words I hadn’t really experienced as a part of my life since then.
The Title at the top shocked me out of paradise:
“THREATS OF TERRORISTS NUCLEAR ATTACK (CBRNE) TERRORISM PROCEDURES – Dear Guests, Advance notice of a nuclear attack is unlikely. When sirens sound and EAS advisories are broadcast, residents and visitors will have less than 12 to 15 minutes before missile impact…” and it went on…for two pages.
Yes, this was our welcome letter. I blinked my eyes. I suddenly wasn’t sequestered in my safe, comfortable home in the Midwest…I was close to, and in direct line from, some of America’s foreign bullies. It wasn’t a “distant” threat any longer, it was right here. Here…in “paradise”.
I asked myself, as I set the letter back down, “Is there any place on earth, any time of life, any person who breathes, that is immune from trouble and TRULY enfolded in “paradise”? The answer is obviously, “No.”
No matter how beautiful, comfortable a place, no matter how magical the moment, no matter how healthy and/or wealthy the person…nothing is perfect. There will always be “something” wrong. Trouble is around the corner.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy or pessimistic. I’m being realistic. Everyone who breathes, including Believers and Followers of Jesus, will face “trouble in paradise AND outside paradise”. How then do we live?
Shall we deny trouble? I could have set the letter down and never though of it again, ignoring it’s existence and the existence of a very real threat. Is that what my King teaches? I don’t think so. Jesus is a realist in the truest form. He never taught a “butterfly & roses” lesson to anyone. He faced everything, and taught a reality of life on earth and not “pie in the sky” doctrine.
Shall we worry? Ha! Of ALL the things Jesus speaks to us, one of the loudest is, “Don’t worry.” He goes on to say that “each day has trouble enough of its own.”, letting us know that simple “worry” cannot add days to our lives or growth to our bodies. I could have chosen to walk through each day in Kaua’i with the worry of impending nuclear attack spicing every meal, poisoning every drink, interrupting every conversation…and then kicked myself on the way home from vacation, knowing that I wasted all my time by NOT LIVING in each and every moment.
I always like to say, “One of the first things we will say to each other, as we meet up in the New Earth, will be ‘Didn’t we waste a lot of time worrying about things that never happened?’”
So how then, DO we live in this world, this time, this place? Some people live every day in a purgatory I will never have; filled with desperate hunger, danger, and death…living for that one brief moment of “paradise” in their days. Others live in another world I also don’t live in; filled with pleasure, comfort, ease, riches…all at their fingertips. I’m somewhere in-between. But in ALL cases, what I hear the Spirit say (on the Page, and through my own eyes, ears, and heart) is “LIVE the full life Jesus has given you”.
Live a prepared life, (Ephesians 6:10-18) for trouble that WILL surely come.
Live a grateful life (Philippians 4:6 / I Thessalonians 5:18) during the time there IS NO trouble, as well as when THERE IS trouble.
Live a “present” life (enjoying every moment) in this place and time, understanding that this place and time do not define your “real life”. (John 14:1-3 / John 17:3)
Is it in my nature to see the rose before thinking of the thorn, or the other way around? Whatever my nature is at present, my created nature is to experience the rose’s color, feel, and scent…with full knowledge of, and appreciating, the thorn. Jesus doesn’t teach us, nor does He want us, to pass over ANYTHING in this present life. He doesn’t teach us to ignore the people around, nor the moments and circumstances of life HERE, only to race on toward the gates of Heaven. He leads us to a FULL (overflowing, more than measurable) life that STARTS NOW, IN THIS PLACE AND TIME, while even acknowledging “the thorn” on the rose.
Last week, every beach had a sharp stone, every wave carried the threat of jellyfish sting, every day had rain, every smile belonged to someone who also cried tears. THIS present age is not perfect, but inside the imperfection of time and place there are glimpses of The Age-To-Come. If we ignore those moments of paradise, or “see the thorn first”, we will not recognize THE Paradise when we actually step into it.
I hope you find your paradise in this age; an imperfect, troubled, beautiful, rich, temporary, fading, scented, musical, hard, difficult, peaceful, messy, and FULL life.
Do not brush away any moment or person. Every moment has its time, every person has their place. Enjoy the agenda God gives. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience a miracle. Don’t pass up the opportunity to be the miracle for someone else.
I wish you, “aloha”.