Emily (my 16 yr old daughter) and I are in the Windy City today—yeah, Chicago. She is here for aptitude testing at the Johnson O’Connor Institute. This testing is something we’ve committed to for our children, to help them discover the innate gifting God has given them. She’s got a full day of all kinds of interesting testing ahead of her: 3D puzzles, musical ear testing, putting pins in holes, etc. I get to see her for lunch– will be interesting to hear what she thinks… Charlie (our 18 yr old son) took it two years ago and it really helped him know that music is his major gifting.
I’m sitting in a Starbucks on Wabash and Chicago, unable to figure out how to get on the Internet, so am in Word pecking away, til I get an epiphany or a call back from Rich on what the trick is…this may not get posted til later…
The area we’re in is downtown proper, right in the center of the shopping district and a stone’s throw from Navy Pier…really in the heart of it all. Being in the heart of the city allows me liberty to voice its heartbeat, right? Today (and maybe everyday, I don’t know) is slow, steady and friendly. The day’s forecast is hot and humid, people are pacing themselves, making room for each other, holding doors open, and we’ve even encountered some ‘look in the eye and smile’ faces this a.m. When I asked the policeman on the corner where to find the nearest Starbucks he was surprisingly friendly and approachable, and sent out a SOS on his walkie talkie to find out (I wasn’t expecting someone who has to police people in an urban setting to be so disarmingly open). Even the birds at the Corner Bakery‘s sidewalk tables weren’t afraid to cuddle up to us. I feel safe and relaxed here…almost feels like home, and I’m not a city girl. Summertime in Chicago, could get used to this…
As I walked through the streets this morning, the thought “city of God” kept coming. I know there is a book out by that title (by Augustine, I think) but I haven’t read it, so can’t go there and must not be where I’m supposed to go… So, it got me thinking of a Biblical city of God…I do have a Bible with me. I was wondering if Revelation had a city of God in it and when I opened to Revelation, it opened to the page that has the heading “The New Heaven and the New Earth” (ch 21) and verses 2-4 of that chapter says “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…Behold, I am making all things new.’”
In chapter 22 it says that the Tree of Life is present on either side of the river of the water of life, which runs through the heart of the city of God. The Tree of Life…haven’t seen it since Genesis and it was in a garden, not a city, it was in the Garden of Eden…yeah, the Adam and Eve story. In the Genesis account, the Tree of Life takes second billing to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil —the tree that Adam and Eve eat of and receive dire consequences for: hard childbirth for women, men have to sweat to feed their families, the snake has to slither on its belly, banished from the Garden of Eden…no wait, as I look at Genesis chapter 3, I see that they are banished from the Garden of Eden not for eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but in case they disobey God again and eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. In fact, after they are banished, God puts an angel on guard so that the Tree of Life cannot be plucked from. And here at the end of the Bible, after the end of time, after final defeat of Satan, and the complete reign of God’s kingdom in the new heaven and earth, it is taking center stage…eternal life ever present and its leaves are “for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 23:2) and its fruit is ever ready for picking.
So, we go from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the new Jerusalem, the city of God, in Revelation. Garden to city…very different settings, one with a population of two, the other, by definition is populated to the hilt, yet they both carry the abiding presence of God, both house peace, beauty, well being, perpetual communion with God. Bliss, really.
Chicago isn’t blissful, it’s not the new Jerusalem, but it contains beauty, kindness, patience and even pockets of peace. Thank you, Windy City. You’ve given me a small glimpse of the city of God.