Then I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ – Revelation 14:6-7
Just at eye level a leaf flutters, bright gold/ocher/bright gold/ocher, like a flag. I take the hint, coming out of the labyrinthine paths of calculation in which I have been lost. I see that I am walking along the river, just that, one foot rolling from heel to toe as my body comes over it, the second following, lifting, flung ahead. The bright air is full of the smell of falling leaves. To the west the sky has turned a deep steel blue, the foothills fuzzy with something. Rain?
A young tree, its trunk the circumference of a quarter, catches my eye. As do all creatures of its kind, it has worked with all its might to stretch each of its hundreds of upper appendages out, as far as they will go into the sky. At the ends it has birthed glorious leaves. Leaves, each drinking in the sun, each breathing deeply of the winds of the world, have come into their fullness on its skinny frame. Did it glory in them? Did it toss its head and laugh a soft tree laugh?
Now they are dying. They have quit taking in nourishment from the blood flowing through the tree’s tiny fingers. They have withdrawn their connection, and soon they will slough off and float away. Perhaps the little tree is mourning. Certainly it has turned to another primal undertaking. Gripping the soil thoroughly with its lower appendages, it begins to rest and store up nutrients gathered from water and soil, to ready itself in quiescence for the great push, in spring time, to reach even more deeply into the sky.
With the love of an artist, I caress this slender being with my eyes. My mouth moves in a guttural noise of appreciation. “You are so stunning,” I tell it. “You would bring the most avid of gold-seekers to his knees in wondrous praise. I would fall to my knees myself, were it not that these days it is a little difficult to get up again. And, unlike you, creatures like me have to move from place to place.”
What if the hour of God’s judgment is when God’s appreciative artist’s eye glories in the life of each breathing creature in the cosmos? What if it is a time of utmost love and profoundest connection? What if that hour of judgment permeates all hours, part of the elemental nature of time, just as Christ’s presence permeates all creation, part of the elemental nature of God?
In this vision we are not saved from the cataclysms of our own creating. That which we have destroyed is gone. Instead it is as if God reaches for us in every single moment, whispering, “Come back. Come back to me. You are beautiful beyond measure, and you are meant for me. Your essence is to expand, like the tiny tendrils of trees, into the heaven of my love.” And in every single moment we have the ability to simply turn around.
What if this is the eternal gospel proclaimed by an angel, falling like a meteor through sky?
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: leaves by Ann Fontaine