Was it because I dispatched my husband at the 11th hour to buy a peach pie rather than making a fancy casserole for the church’s potluck lunch? Was it because – if truth be told – I never had any intention of breaking a sweat over any kind of casserole – fancy or plain? I’m not sure for which of my many sins I was being punished, but this Sunday I learned that Jonathan Edwards was absolutely right:
We find it easy to tread on and crush a Worm that we see crawling on the Earth; so ’tis easy for us to cut or singe a slender Thread that any Thing hangs by; thus easy is it for God when he pleases to cast his Enemies down to Hell.
It was “Worship in the Courtyard” Sunday. After the service, there was a bounce house, a potluck picnic, and even a magician. We marveled at the bountiful feast spread out by the hospitality committee. A long table was groaning under the weight of all the elaborate salads and casseroles that people had lovingly prepared with their own hands. My daughter was especially impressed by the watermelon cut out to look like a frog whose mouth contained a beautiful medley of fresh fruits, and she took pains to point it out to me. I nodded nonchalantly, trying not to betray the guilt I felt as I thought of the “store-boughten” pie I had furtively snuck onto the dessert table. I gorged myself on the feast others had brought, heedless of “the arrows of death” which “fly unseen at Noon-Day.”
It was time for the magician’s act. Like any true introvert would, I picked a seat in the very back row, right on the end of the aisle. About half way through the show, the magician’s wife and assistant asked for a volunteer. I gazed benignly around at the many hands shooting up all around me. Obviously, my own hands stayed firmly in my lap.
Almost every natural Man that hears of Hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own Security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do; every one lays out Matters in his own Mind how he shall avoid Damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his Schemes won’t fail…He don’t intend to come to that Place of Torment…
“The woman in the back row with sunglasses on her head.”
I swiveled around in my seat to see which poor sucker had volunteered.
There was no woman in the back row with sunglasses on her head. Except for me. The magician’s assistant skewered me with her gaze and nodded vigorously as I pointed weakly to myself with a questioning, hangdog, really-can’t-you-see-that-I-am-dying-a-thousand-deaths-look.
Oh! then what will be the Consequence! What will become of the poor Worm that shall suffer it!…To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable Depth of Misery must the poor Creature be sunk, who shall be the Subject of this!…when God beholds the ineffable Extremity of your Case, and see your Torment to be so vastly disproportion’d to your Strength, and sees how your poor Soul is crushed and sinks down, as it were into an infinite Gloom, he will have no Compassion upon you, he will not forbear the Executions of his Wrath, or in the least lighten his Hand; there shall be no Moderation of Mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough Wind…
I slunk up to the front and then this happened:
This is but a mere snippet of the “exquisite horrible Misery” I endured.
When you look forward, you shall see a long Forever, a boundless Duration before you, which will swallow up your Thoughts, and amaze your Soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any Deliverance, any End, any Mitigation, any Rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long Ages, Millions of Millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless Vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many Ages have actually been spent by you in this Manner, you will know that all is but a Point to what remains…
I sought comfort in the gaze of my husband who sat in the audience. What I found was my very own phone held aloft, recording every moment for posterity. My husband was holding my phone, grinning maniacally from ear to ear as he witnessed my torment.
How awful is it to be left behind at such a Day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoycing and singing for Joy of Heart, while you have Cause to mourn for Sorrow Heart, and howl for Vexation of Spirit!
There was one person who pitied me. Later, as my son and fellow introvert watched the video my husband had recorded so gleefully, he literally averted his gaze and said, “I can’t watch! I feel so sorry for you! I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
At least one person in our family is not going to roast in hell for all of eternity.
*You can read the full text of Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God here.