I must confess I feel as if I have been living in hell ever since we received the news of my son Christopher’s traumatic brain injury and emergency surgery in January.
But if I am totally honest, I need to add that I have also experienced glimpses of heaven breaking into this nightmare. I told a friend last night that the entire saga got me to thinking of the atheist existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre’s play titled “No Exit.” The play is Sartre’s account of hell. Sartre’s vision of hell looks very different from what we might find in medieval lore or in a horror film. There are no flesh-roasting fires, no blood chilling screams, and no carnivorous demons. Here in Sartre’s hell, we find three individuals stuck in a room existing in total isolation for all eternity. The door is locked from the outside. They can’t get out. They can’t get away from each other even for a moment. They can’t even close their eyes, as their eyelids won’t shut. There is no escape and they are driving one another insane. At one point one of the characters exclaims: “Hell is other people.” While the surroundings look very different, still one could easily write above the entrance to the room what we find inscribed over the gates of Dante’s hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” If Sartre is right that hell is other people, the same could be said of heaven. Heaven is other people, too. And yes, the eyes are wide open in heaven. It’s not that the eyelids cannot close, but that our heavenly eyes have panoramic and penetrating vision. We see each other for what we were made for, who we truly are, what we could ever hope to be. Here I call to mind two Scriptures about this heavenly mindset for us here on earth:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8; NIV)
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