The Latchstring of the Eternal

When I saw Tom Hanks’ film Cast Away back in 2000, I thought it was deeply dishonest. A man, Chuck Noland, spends four years on a Pacific island. Alone. A truly desperate situation. Yet, he never, not once, prays or even looks up in search for something higher. He builds a relationship with “Wilson,” a commercial product.

But, now I realize the movie was prophetic. Today, we all live in desperation, and yet we seek or recognize nothing beyond ourselves. Like Chuck Noland, we don’t lift our eyes. And, in our aching loneliness, we also build relationships with cold material objects.

Maybe that’s why our American culture has become so claustrophobic. The walls and ceilings of our imagination keep moving closer. Our freedom to dream and explore has become cramped. Today, a need for help only drives us to Google or YouTube. We seem unable to grasp anything transcendent.

Groping in the Dark

Malachi Martin closed his novel, King of Kings, with an intimate portrait of Israel’s King David as he neared death. In his last days, we see the once-magnificent and fearsome king suffering “rigid and brittle fragileness” and weeping “quiet tears” in the night. Then, we see the dying David “groping for the latchstring in the door that opened out onto the eternal.”[1]

That phrase captures my own heart’s cry. That’s why I find myself in every conversation, meeting, meal, book, movie, sermon, or business transaction, reaching for that latchstring. I am not angry; I am just bored by every voice, tradition, system, idea, or issue littering the terrain around us.

But, I am overwhelmed by God; I care what He ordains and orders in His creation.

Let me meditate in His temple; I want to soak in His simplicities, silences, invisibilities, and abundances. Let me get lost in how He so masterfully conducts the whole orchestra of His cosmos, including seasons, expanses of land and water and space, the incomprehensible sweep of the universe, and, oh yes, those beautiful, complicated, gifted, crazy, devout, irritating, and deranged people whom He created as instruments for His magnificent and beautiful purposes.

Voices

I wonder if we may soon learn what the Apostle John meant when he wrote, “…We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.”[2]

I’m sick of “national conversations.” Those voices and opinions are distinctly and uniformly “of the earth.” We just keep recycling them. Forget it; I want to hear a sound from heaven, one that doesn’t sound anything like “earthly things.”

And, frankly, I have a concern about our cleverness in these human conversations. We’re too good at it; I’m too good at it. But, some terrible forces are gathering that simply will not respond to earthly voices. Siri and Alexa cannot tell us what to do. Fox News, The New York Times, Facebook, and other energy centers will be left stuttering. And religious leaders and media will sound just as foolish as all other cultural voices.

One Voice, One Word

Although John the Baptist came from a priestly lineage, nothing about him confirmed that culture. He didn’t wear what they wore, eat what they ate, drink what they drank, write what they wrote, or speak what they spoke. He was not conversant with the establishment. His message didn’t engage them at all.

That voice cut across all the exhausted words and embalmed concepts. He was not interested in dialogue, compromise, or reform. He said, “Repent.” That one word came from God, not from around here. And it rejected norms and traditions and slashed any hope of improvement or accommodation. “Repent” laid an ax at the root of every impotent thought, institution, or authority. The old was dead.

John the Baptist found the latchstring. When he pulled it, the King marched through the gate. He still marches and the territory of His Kingdom continues to increase. Isaiah said that increase will never stop.

Some see all that now. Those who don’t and those who do should lift their eyes. Don’t look down; don’t turn back. Keep looking to the horizon. As sure as the sunrise, something new is coming. And knowledge of the new is already spilling across the land. It will inexorably cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

[1] Malachi Martin, King of Kings (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980)

[2] John 3:31, New Living Translation

11 thoughts on “The Latchstring of the Eternal”

  1. God has been taken out of the loop in America. We started relying on the government. Christian America said as Israel “ give us a king, let him rule on abortion, sex, education, etc.”. However our king did not rule as we thought but we still call on him for help!

  2. Ed, this is absolutely the best thing I’ve read this year, maybe even decade. I very much identify with what you’re saying. Perhaps it’s age. Perhaps not. It reminds me of the first time we met in Pennsylvania. Your workshop titled “The Tyranny of Worship” changed my thinking about many things. Please keep writing. Your “voice” it one we need to hear.

  3. It’s amazing if not shocking. We (Americans) are willing to exchange our birthright (Judeo-Christian principles) for a bowl of porridge (politicians’ promises). “A Practical Guide to Culture” by Stonestreet and Kunkle clearly articulate what is happening to America’s cultural roots but with ideas on how to help the next generation to navigate the world in which we live. We don’t despair because our hope is on the horizon.

  4. You are a great writer Ed. I always enjoy the way you craft a sentence. One comment, I see Christians on the right navel gaze about their political involvement considerably more than our Christian brothers on the left. I hope they also would take the time to reevaluate their dedication to earthly politics. I’m sure they think they are doing God’s work. For me, I can’t get past abortion. I wonder if Jesus were walking on this earth, if He would have something to say about this.

  5. Oh my goodness, Ed, this is just powerful and clear. I love how you directed our thoughts and affections to the right place. That hope reaches beyond the curtain of the visible into His deep assurances. Thank you, my friend!

  6. Recently I was so sick I really thought I was dying. In the emergency room I spoke out , will someone just shoot me. I was in a a daze. I did not think of anything but escape from the pain. Did not pray . There was nothing spiritual about it. I was dying. Nothing on this earth was in my field of view, only the extreme pain. A day later on some serious pain killer, drifting in and out I heard this heavenly music outside. What, what is that? A nurse came in and ask would you like to see the man playing. Oh my yes. Outside my room was a very distinguished looking gentleman playing heavenly music on a harp. It was heavenly. We talked at length about the Lord. We were not caught up in the earthly but in the eternal. I’m ok now but an experience I shall not soon forget. Our present climate in this country is like a tornado. If we get to close or to involved a flying fridge may smack us in the head. Listen for the heavenly music.

  7. What an excellent word! How easily we drift and lose perspective. I need to be reminded over and over to ‘Look up!’ I think of this world as the real world, but it is not. It is an imposter, but a loud, blustery, seductive and intimidating one. Macbeth’s description of life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing” comes to mind. Thank you Ed, for this timely exhortation. (Luke 21:28)

  8. Ed, the voice of a prophet. What a refreshing word. You’ve captured the hope of the believer. As a soul voice and a broken follower of Jesus, I feel that in the vain hope for something that might look like a “conservative” national agenda, a significant cohort within evangelical leadership has embraced evil. I’m still trying to catch my breath after the events of the last week to 10 days. You have helped reset my sense of perspective and restored a glimmer of hope for the future.
    Thanks.

  9. Thanks Ed for sharing such inspiring and challenging words. So much needed in the world we walk in today. Looking upward to the one and only Sovereign God is the only way to reconciliation of our divided world. I appreciate you.

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