I Long for the New Earth


annie rim -new earth3

“I’ve been painting since I was young,” my five-year-old recently told a friend. My friend and I laughed about Bea’s tendency to frame her life experiences as though she were an old woman, looking back over the years. She loves phrases like, back in the day and remember when to tell stories of her half-decade on this earth.

I’ve been reflecting about this attitude within our nation lately. Historically speaking, we haven’t been around all that long. Really, to be a nation for 240 years and a “world power” for less than a century isn’t all that long. Spain and Portugal ruled the “Age of Discovery” for 200 years. The sun didn’t set on the British Empire for 250 years after, longer than we’ve been a nation.

And yet we talk about historical preservation as though we are an old nation, looking back on a life well lived. We fail to realize that we are still actively living recent history. That in a hundred years, seemingly big events will be lumped together. I wonder if the Vietnam War will mark the beginning of American Colonialism, when history is reflected? I wonder if the Civil Rights Movement will stretch from the 1960’s into the 2020’s continuously when our great-grandchildren write of this time?

As a Christian in the modern United States, I sometimes see a call to “return to our roots,” to a simpler and more ordered time. We aren’t talking about our actual ancient roots; this is usually a call to return to life sixty years ago. In many ways, this is like a five-year-old reminiscing about all the accomplishments in her young life.

I’m not saying that these small details don’t matter or that we shouldn’t care about individual lives and decisions. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed by daily injustice, sometimes I have to take a step back and look at history. It’s true that nothing is changed overnight or even over the course of several years. We are in a long, slow journey toward redemption.

It makes me think of the early church and all of the signs they saw that pointed toward Christ’s return. Now, we can see through a historical lens that many of these end-time warnings were fulfilled, not by the returning of Jesus, but by the Roman Empire’s rule in the region. Some prophesies were fulfilled in the short-term; others we can see in a different light with a broader lens.

When Bea reminisces like the old lady she’s not, I try not to roll my eyes in that annoying way grownups can do when they think children are funny. I am remembering to take her seriously because, in all seriousness, she has been doing art since she was young. Most of her life has been devoted to drawing and painting, and so this isn’t a false claim.

Similarly, while I think we need to step back and remember the big picture, I don’t think the daily details can be diminished at all. Individual experiences matter. Small changes shift big mindsets and to nod condescendingly at seemingly minute details can be dangerous. We must acknowledge the unique stories being told so we can remember that history is personal.

It’s a difficult balance for me to find. As a big-picture thinker, I can dismiss the details as insignificant. As someone who also recognizes that a well-executed plan is filled with important details, I am remembering that the everyday details are what make history.

I suppose that’s the work of restoration, isn’t it? This balance of remembering and learning from the past, but also recognizing what the past actually is. How do we learn in the moment? How do we move forward, yearning for what God has promised without wishing for what has happened?

I don’t long for the Garden of Eden; I long for the New Earth, fixed and redeemed, with all that we have learned along the way.