Johan’s eyelids flickered as the soft light of early morning illuminated the room. The pillow under his head was pleasantly cool. He stretched his arms up.
Opening his eyes, it took a few seconds for Johan to register the fact he was in a new environment. Gone were the familiar log walls, and instead, tan stone surrounded him.
Johan, now fully awake, eased himself out of bed. New clothes were hung neatly in a wardrobe and Johan could see homely furniture in the next room.
Looking out of the window, he observed several stone buildings, spaced out with wildflowers and tall grass surrounding their bases. There were no trees to be seen, and the flat ground confirmed that he was no longer on a mountain-side.
Despite all the sudden changes, Johan felt mainly peaceful. It was the same feeling as when he was first raised and met Jesus and Ruach at their home all those years ago. He was thankful for the month of preparation everyone had been given when the angel had brought news of the jubilee change.
Johan took his time to look around at this new dwelling before finding his way outside. The day was warm and fragrant from the blooming flowers abundant in the air. To Johan’s great joy, a familiar face came strolling around a nearby barn.
“Yan!” called Johan excitedly.
Yan came straight over to Johan and the two friends embraced.
“So, the next Jubilee has begun,” said Yan, smiling. “Jesus has placed everyone in a new situation.”
“Ok, so is everyone here new to me?”
“At first they will be,” smiled Yan. “It’ll take some exploring. I’ll see you again in a bit.”
Johan did as Yan suggested and began to get his bearings. Among the stone cottages that were clearly people’s accommodation, there were more utility structures that Johan presumed would be used for farming and other creative and industrious enterprises. A few other people were also walking around. There were polite exchanges of greetings, but it seemed nobody was quite ready for anything else.
There were a few big trees that were laden with fruit, and a stretch of land that was marked out in a distinctive way, Johan guessed they would be planted with seeds.
The grassland that surrounded the settlement stretched out on all sides. After years of being hedged in on all sides by tall pine trees, Johan couldn’t help but feel the landscape was exposed, but he also appreciated being able to see for miles around. There were purple hills in the distance, too far away to determine their features. In the opposite direction foothills began to undulate and Johan could see hedgerows and clumps of trees. The sky felt vaster than before, encircling the whole scene with its multi-coloured display of light that played on the cottonwool clouds.
Johan stood, taking it in for some time.
Yan came back from visiting others and put a caring hand on Johan’s shoulder.
“I know you will miss your sister until you see her again. That is a sign of your deep love for her, but she needs to establish herself in her own independence. She will be safe and well in her new community, I can promise you that!”
Johan was visibly upset.
Attempting to console him Yan said, “I don’t know where she is, but I know the reason you are apart is to allow you each to continue growing. In the fullness of time, all people will be able to see one another as they please, but not until all of us have learned to live completely from Agape Love. For some of the coming seasons, this means living with some loss and with some heartache, but only for your joy to be complete when full reconciliation happens. This is all part of the great adventure of Love.”
Johan stared toward the purple hills. “We all went to sleep one night, and we’ve all woken up in new places. I mean, how can that be loving? We knew it was coming, but it’s still upsetting!”
“I know it’s hard. What has happened is that we’ve all been recreated. Our bodies have effectively died and been rebirthed. It’s a mystery that only Jesus and Ruach understand in full. It’s part of our journey to learn to trust in the big picture, despite the difficult moments.”
“What do you know of my loss?” asked Johan, with emotion clearly running deep.
“I have not seen my family from the Previous Age,” said Yan gently. “I would love to see my Mama and Papa again and be reconciled with my brothers, my cousins and my friends. Do not think that I don’t have longings and feel sad sometimes. But I will tell you truly, I know that Jesus will ensure that everything and everyone lives well in the end. There will come a time on the New Earth when we will all be able to see those we love, and even those we hated, in the fullness and completeness of who we really are in the image of God. But first we must all go through the process.”
Johan looked forlorn.
“I am sorry, Yan. I think sometimes we forget that you have loved ones too – you and Yvonne. Of course, you want to see them again. I hear what you are saying, my friend. Knowing this about you makes it easier for me to trust in what you are saying about the bigger picture.”
“We can all feel impatient sometimes, Johan – and that’s ok. That’s the love that is inside us wanting to be received by those we love. The longing, the yearning and the missing of people is all a sign of love being alive and working inside us.”
“Maybe we need to understand those feelings as hope, somehow?” wondered Johan.
“I think that’s a good way to think of it,” responded Yan. “These feelings, although they aren’t comfortable, are a good thing. When we grieved and mourned in the Previous Age, it was because we had love that couldn’t be received. For many it was full of despair because they thought that death was the permanent division between us and our loved ones. But, now we know that death will not keep us from one another. Our grief and mourning can be turned into hope and longing – longing that will one day be fulfilled.”
“I’m just saying, I wish all this was a lot less like the Previous Age. I mean, I’m all for things being relatively familiar, but don’t you wish we could all fly, or…”
Johan turned to look at the man talking to him. He was fair-haired and had piercing blue eyes which disappeared if he smiled. The two sat on the grassy hillside they had climbed to get a better idea of the geography of their new environment.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Johan. “My Previous Age was horrendous. I am glad I am not crawling through mud every day while being shot at, or going hungry and not washing for months on end.”
“You sound like you were a soldier?” said the man with interest. “When did you serve?”
Johan looked deep into the man’s face, trying to discern whether he should open up to him or not.
“Apparently they called it World War Two,” he said reluctantly. “But I died before it ended.”
“Oh, you were killed?” the man said, with a reassuring tone that made Johan sense that he cared.
“Myself and my friends. Shelled in our dugout. Never knew a thing. What about you? What did you do?”
“I’m Chester by the way,” said the young man. “Canadian Air Corps, World War Two.”
Chester raised a hand and saluted Johan sarcastically.
“That makes us enemies,” said Chester, his voice darkening.
“So did you die in combat, too?” asked Johan, trying to find common ground.
“No, I never even saw action,” reported Chester. “I joined up in early ’45 and it was all over before we were deployed. I didn’t get the chance to kick your ass.”
“So, what happened?” asked Johan. “Since I was raised, I have not met another former serviceman, yet alone from the same time as me.”
“You don’t know?” Chester raised his eyebrows and let out a mocking, fake laugh.
“No.” said Johan and quickly raised his hands. “Actually stop. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. It won’t help either of us to dig all that back up again. We are here and we are not at war, and that is enough for me.”
“Sure, but actually I think you need to know that you lost,” said Chester.
Johan scowled at Chester, suddenly feeling a rush of hatred toward him.
“For fuck’s sake man!” he yelled angrily. “I said I didn’t want to know!”
“Yeah, well listen up buddy, you need to know. You need to know that the Axis powers killed millions of Jews. You need to know that your fascist insanity plunged the world into an apocalyptic war that killed countless people.”
Chester temper was rising.
“You Nazi scumbag! You know what? I am glad my friends bombed your cities into dust and killed your friends and family. You deserved it.”
Johan felt crushed.
“Fuck you, Nazi,” he spat and walked off at pace, only turning around to put up a middle finger.
Johan was torn as to whether to pursue Chester and try and explain that he was never a member of the Nazi party and had been conscripted into the army straight from school. He had so many questions boiling in his brain about the war and how Hitler had lost and wanted to know more about what he’d said about the Jews and how the allies had bombed the Axis countries. Instead, Johan hung his head and imagined a dark wave several stories high racing toward him. He wished desperately that he wasn’t alone at that moment.
Hours went by under the changing sky and Johan could see down to his new settlement. Smoke was beginning to rise from the chimneys which meant food was being prepared. Johan longed for his sister’s loving care and kindness, he also yearned to hug his parents again, but right at that moment he felt lonelier than he’d ever felt in his entire existence. Getting to his feet he resolved that he could not return to the village.
Yan shook his pillow out and laid it back on his bed, feeling a sense of satisfaction as he put the final touches on making his cottage feel like home. As he stood with his hands on his hips, he felt a familiar tug on his heart and Johan’s face appeared in his mind. Yan stepped out of his cottage and began walking around the settlement looking for Johan.
“Have you seen Johan?” he asked a group of men standing together around a roaring fire.
“That Nazi?” asked one of them.
“Oh come on, he’s better than a Nazi,” added another. “He’s a dead Nazi.”
The men laughed loudly, and Yan felt a great sense of sorrow.
“I left him in the foothills,” said Chester, who was whittling a stick. “If he’s got any wisdom he’ll stay there,” he added, not looking up.
Yan moved on quickly and began to head toward the hills in the distance. They were growing darker each minute as the daylight was dying away.