So we expected it all the time.
As a result I had all sorts of fears and neuroses about the Second Coming. For one, I hoped and prayed that it would not happen while I was sitting on the toilet. We believed, in accord with scripture, that when Jesus and his angels came on the clouds of glory, the just who were living would rise to meet them in the air. I was painfully shy and afraid that I might shoot up into heaven with my pants and tighty whities down around my ankles. I would be humiliated, and I suspect Jesus and his angels would be annoyed or laugh at me. I can’t imagine that either of those would be good.
On the rare occasion when I would come home and no one would seem to be around, if it was quiet as could be, I would have a momentary fear that Jesus had come back, everyone else had literally flown the coop and I had been left behind.
I mention in passing that being left behind was going to be nothing like the absurdly popular series of books with that title. I am not sure where the authors got the idea that after the Second Coming the rest of the world was going to be a bad Arnold Schwarznegger movie. It has proved to be a profitable venture for them, spinning off into a Young Adult series and movies as well. If you are a fan, to each his or her own. I am amazed that these things are considered Christian fiction. I see the full series on the shelves of church libraries and wonder what it means. If there is a true sign of the End Times, the existence that series could be it.
On the other hand, there were hopeful things connected with Jesus coming back and bringing the end of the world as we know it. One of these was that physical education would come to an end.
I was never athletic. I loved to swim and we had a pool in our backyard. But team sports and things like that were always beyond me. This didn’t matter much in elementary school, but once we hit junior high, it all became a problem. The coaches were notoriously paddle-happy disciplinarians. My classmates were hitting puberty and growing taller and getting muscles. In my case, puberty made me skinnier – before that I was a pudgy child, “”husky” in the politically correct marketing in Sears catalogs of the day. I grew hair in the appropriate places and at the appropriate time. But no muscles. No height. No co-ordination. No speed. Nothing.
So I hated phys ed with a hatred that was pure and burned bright. Every Friday afternoon, I would pray fervently and seriously that Jesus would come back over the weekend and I would never have to go through the humiliation of phys ed again. Monday morning always brought disappointment. But hope springs eternal in the youthful breast, I suppose, and the following Friday I would be back at my pleading with God. I am not sure why I didn’t pray every morning that Jesus would just come back that day before gym class. I guess I just thought Jesus would pick a weekend.
Even if Jesus did return, there was always the difficulty of the painful Final Judgment and Hell. I imagined the Final Judgment to be a sort of never-ending – this was eternity, right, so we actually did have all the time in the world – film festival where the life of everyone who had ever lived was shown from beginning to end with all the bad parts highlighted with brighter lights and louder sound, a bit like television commercials. It was going to be the One and Only Original Real Lifetime Movie Event.
All this was probably going to be a riot for God and the angels, not to mention the devils lurking on the side to escort the losers Elsewhere. But I suspected I would not be able to enjoy watching other people mess up because I would be dreading my own Lifetime appearance. And since there were billions of movies ahead of mine, even if I were to somehow manage to squeak by into Heaven, there was a long long long long time to be spent in fear and trembling before the Throne of God. I don’t know. Maybe this was our version of Purgatory. You were going to get to Heaven, but it would hurt like Hell first.