After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. - Revelation 4:1 (NIV)
The concept of hell may be many things to many people, but Howard Thurman, the noted Christian mystic, had an interesting take on it.
In a dream in which he went to hell, Dr. Thurman found himself surrounded by quite a few people he knew, and the place was pleasantly air-conditioned. In hell, said Dr. Thurman, there was cheerful banter and the music sounded just right.
Dr. Thurman described that he was approached by a beautiful woman who asked if he'd like to dance. Upon giving his consent, and upon being on the dance floor with the beautiful woman for quite some time, Dr. Thurman said to her: "Thank you for this dance. I think I'll go get something to drink, and rest for a while now." The woman replied, "No. No. You may have forgotten, but this is hell … and in hell you cannot stop dancing to the same beat, and the same beat goes on and on and on."
Many of us understand hell as a place of no options and no possibilities. It is a place where systems of injustice cripple the social location and the socio/economic mobility of the poor. It is a place where a person's fear of new frontiers locks that person permanently into the dysfunctions of the status quo. It is a place where immense imagination has completely surrendered to myopic circumstances.
John of Patmos saw an open door in heaven and heard an invitation to see the possibilities of God's work in the world. That open door was an open channel through which the faith and the vision of John could operate boldly and imaginatively, unobstructed by the dismal conditions of his context.
God has left that door open for each of us.
God, we look to you for open vistas into our greatest possibilities. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.