Editor's Note: This post is by Jeff Cook, pastor and author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes For more information about Jeff, visit his blog at www.everythingnew.org. Enjoy.
My birthday is Thursday, but I received the present from my wife over a month ago.
As back-story, I built a band with many of my friends when I was in high school. It lasted through college, and even into my adult years. It stands as one of the most important times in my life. It was a time when I got together with other men my age. We spent time praying, sharing our struggles with faith, sex, and the world around us. We rehearsed regularly and played as often as three or four times a week in bars, clubs and churches around Colorado.
The brotherhood created through that band is one of the true treasures of my life. I have a few photographs from on the walls of my office. They are reminders to me of so many things. Things I could express like friendship and pleasure, and things I can't express but are hinted at by words like joy, thankfulness, regret.
The last show I played with TMJ didn't end as it should have. I had been in a fight with one of my best friends about how things were being handled in our band. I was transitioning into grad school and marriage, and as the show concluded it suddenly felt like something I had worked to build—had enjoyed for seven years—simply evaporated before me. My best reasoning said it was just time to grow up. But my heart has been saying that things ought to have been different ever since.
Even in regret life moves on. I still saw many of my band-mates regularly, but not in musical settings. As my birthday approached I had some conversations with a few them about old times. On a recent occasion, one of them slipped me a tape from a show we did in 1998. I happened to be going on a retreat that weekend and had 10 hours to fill. Driving there and back I must have listened to that tape 20 times, singing our songs at the top of my lungs and just reliving a show that at the time was just another weekend gig.
Around midnight, as I drove home, I recall praying in my car and briefly asking that when God raised me to life again—when all things were restored and made whole—I would just like to play with my band again. There is very little else in the world I would treasure as much.
I suppose, the ache of joy once experienced, discarded, and now placed in a future hopes is the story that the Bible tells from cover to cover.
As is frequently the case with God, he had begun answering my prayers months before hand, and in the middle of May my beautiful bride assembled all the players from the later days of my band. She drew together people from around the country back into one of our favorite little venues and invited all our closest friends to participate in one last trumpmotherjones show.
Before we began our show, we stopped to pray, and it all struck me. I saw that my prayer had been answered. That my last show was not the one six years earlier that ended so poorly, it was this one which was surrounded by a spirit of joy and togetherness. I stood, there with my brothers, and heaven engulfed all the space around us. We were standing in the presence of our savior, with our friends, with our family. I was experiencing now, what it would be like then. "May your will be done on earth at it is in heaven."
It was a profound illustration to me of God's dream for our broken world. One day we will be raised to life, the everlasting life to come, and then all the hints and experiences of fleeting joy will culminate. We will see that we were always in heaven seeing the shadows and the edges breaking into our back-story.
I suppose I won't have to ask Jesus for the opportunity to gig with my band again. I have already seen and experienced now what things will be like then when all things are restored, even Colorado funk bands. A TMJ reunion is a given even if we don't play again in my lifetime.
The question now is whether or not we get to play for the company of Heaven (which is a whole new request). But the most enjoyable setting I can think to play won't be in that grand arena. It will be in a small practice room somewhere, and in it will be seven guys sharing life, reminding each other of times from long ago, just being together.