If This Is Goodbye
I don’t talk much about The End. But I wonder if I should. Who would I be today – to my coworkers, to my family, to myself – if I knew the song were coming to a close?
The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar … and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? – 2 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)
In Jennifer Egan’s novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Lincoln is an autistic boy who’s obsessed with the false endings contained in some rock songs – those pauses that bands stretch out to leave their listeners on a cliff’s edge of anticipation, wondering if the music will resume. Lincoln catalogs them exhaustively. The two-second rest in The Police’s “Roxanne.” The monstrous five-second pause in The Four Tops’ “Bernadette.”
Lincoln’s interest is not so much in the pause itself, but the way we feel when the song goes on. Having been fooled by the false ending, we listen more closely and more appreciatively knowing the next one could be real.
The early church talked a lot about The End. It was coming like a thief in the night. And that awareness freed them to live differently. They could be more generous, more peaceful, more patient, knowing that the music could stop at any moment.
As a progressive Christian, I don’t talk much about The End. But I wonder if I should. How might my life be changed if I asked a question like the one in 2 Peter?
What if this were the end? Who would I be today – to my coworkers, to my family, to myself – if I knew the song were coming to a close? What would I be sure to say or not say, to do or to leave undone?
Omega, may I live today as if it were my last.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.