“People aren’t used to angelic records containing accounts of the good and the beautiful as well as the destructive and the ugly. And everything in between,” said Jesus turning to Yan and Yvonne as if to illicit their thoughts. The fifth jubilee was nearing its end and Johan’s progress was being reviewed.
“The media in my country was controlled by the state,” said Yan. “We were only told how great the party was and its ‘successes’. So much of what we’ve learned from the Angelic history records are stories of Agape love breaking through the suffering of the Previous Age.”
“Johan was thirsty for facts and context throughout the fourth jubilee and the start of this one,” remarked Yvonne. “The Angelic records noted things that he ignored at first, but the more he read, the more he became inspired by the stories recording human kindness and empathy.”
“Inspiration is one of my favourite influences on the human heart,” said Jesus. “I was often pleased when my words inspired people I met in my Previous Age. It’s a wonderful thing when inspiration becomes motivation.”
“It was early in his fifth jubilee when Johan’s reading inspired him to desire relationships,” said Yvonne. “He became convinced that the point of existence is Agape Love, and eventually he found the perfect opportunity to re-join the community and practice living by agape love.”
Johan looked out of the window with a furrowed brow. It was unusual to hear any activity outside of his dwelling, let alone the clinking of metal spades. He put his bookmark in and closed the pages. As he opened his door a man approached smiling.
“Hello!” he said cheerfully, holding out a hand. Johan hadn’t spoken to anyone for a while and so blinked at the man a couple of times before reciprocating the handshake.
“Hello,” said Johan quietly.
“Sorry friend, did we disturb you?”
“It’s ok,” replied Johan.
“We’re digging an irrigation channel,” said the man. “I’m Frazer, by the way.”
“Hello Frazer, I’m Johan.”
“I haven’t seen you around much,” said Frazer.
Johan sniffed self-consciously and looked at the ground. “No. I haven’t been out much.”
“We could do with some help, would you be willing to join us?”
Johan felt a knot of anxiety in his stomach. He knew he wanted to but was nervous to be around new people.
“Once we get the channel to the top of the hill, it will connect to a spring and water will flow down to a new vegetable garden we’ve created over there.”
Johan felt a little convicted that he enjoyed the benefits of those who grew the food that he freely took each week but did so little to contribute to its production.
“Ok, I will help. Yeah, sure.”
“Great!” exclaimed Frazer.
Frazer led Johan over to the group of men digging. The sound of the spades slicing through the soil triggered strong memories of digging foxholes with his comrades in the Previous Age. Johan felt a rush of sadness with a strength he hadn’t experienced for a long time. One of the diggers looked up at Johan.
“Hey, mate, are you alright?” he asked.
Frazer looked at Johan and put an arm around his shoulder. Johan was deeply touched by the concern shown by these men he’d only just met.
The whole team of men put down their spades. Suddenly Johan was seated on the grass, surrounded by six new friends.
“I haven’t been with so many fellas for so long,” he said, voice trembling.
“I was nervous of meeting people, too” said one of them, “I just wanted to paint pictures in my garden in this new jubilee. I didn’t feel I had the capacity for friendship after I was parted from my friends in the last jubilee. I didn’t see the point of making new friends if we kept getting split up.”
Johan nodded. “I just miss my sister, and my friends – not to mention those I haven’t seen since the Previous Age. I just want to read all the time and not talk to anyone.”
“Many of us have had the same journey,” said another, kindly. “We are all here together because we are learning to heal from our wounds.”
“Soldier in the Previous?”
“How did you guess?” laughed Johan through tears.
“I felt in my heart you may have found the sound of digging triggering of memories from army life,” said the man.
“But… how?” asked Johan.
“Meditation,” said Frazer. The other men nodded.
“We make time to be still and listen to Ruach each day,” said one of the men. “You can join us?”
“I would probably rather read,” said Johan, “But I am interested. Maybe I could join you tomorrow? For now, let me help you.”
“Let me fetch you a spade,” grinned Frazer. “Many hands make light work!”
After a few minutes of digging, Johan felt a wave of satisfaction. For the first time in many years, he felt connected to people again.
The men talked as they worked, cracking jokes and reminiscing about their Previous Age lives. The atmosphere was more friendly and jovial than Johan had ever experienced. As the hours went by, swift progress was made forming a channel down to the level ground where freshly dug vegetable beds had been prepared.
“Johan, you should be the one to break the barrier at the top of the hill!” suggested one of the men.
“But I joined the work last?” Johan protested. “It shouldn’t be me!”
“You’re the newest member of the team! And this is your welcome,” said Frazer.
“I am so touched, but I’m sure we can all break the barrier together?” suggest Johan, smiling at his new friends. “Come on, let’s go up - all of us.”
The seven men walked slowly back up the hill, following the line of irrigation channel. On reaching the top, there was a short span of earth kept the spring pool back from flowing freely down the new waterway. The men each began to remove the earth, a spade at a time.
“It’s going!” yelled Johan with great mirth as the last slithers of earth fell away.
The men cheered as crystalline water began to cascade down their channel. Some of them began to run with the water. The others followed suit until they were all at the vegetable beds again, panting and laughing.
Johan had found a way back to community and connection with other people. He was delighted to learn that there were women and children in a nearby village, including some complete families who had died together in various wars. Using his experience with Gerty from his first Jubilee he threw himself into volunteering at the village school, showing them the basics for thatching and roof repair.
The days, weeks and months went by. Johan was challenged numerous times by the parents of the children. They frequently failed to understand when their child complained that Johan had not been fair. These episodes enabled Johan to put into practice the skills of patience and empathy that he had read so much about in the Angelic records. The constant demands of the children also taught him to be firm when necessary.
He quietly resolved to spend quality time with every young child at the school, one-to-one, learning what each child loved. Slowly but surely, Johan became liked and trusted by each child in the village, as they came to accept that this man cared for them deeply. Johan got to know each family, and their story. He saw the beauty in their journey and helped them process some of what they experienced.
One warm evening Johan was putting his thatching tools away when he noticed a woman and a man standing just behind a stone wall, looking at him. As Johan looked up to wave to them, he noticed the woman was wiping tears from her cheeks.
“Gerty!” he gasped, vaulting over the wall and rushing to her arms. As he did so, he realised that Jesus was with her. Johan’s eyes widened at seeing Jesus beaming back at him. Johan reached out his other arm and brought Jesus into the embrace.
“Johan, we have come with some news.”
Johan stood back, quite breathless from the surprise of the moment.
“You are invited to come to Zion,” said Jesus. “Your heart is ready, now that you can give and receive Agape Love consistently. You have overcome your temptation to isolate from other people and have moved on from your feelings of resentment and bitterness. Ruach has told me how you are meditating with your friends and letting go of so much that has held you back in the past. You have allowed Agape Love to be your compass, your source of inspiration.”
“Come to Zion!” said Gerty! “I live there now, and so do Mum and Dad!”
Johan hadn’t thought about his parents for some time. Life had become so sweet in his village. Johan realised that he no longer thought of the past, nor the future, but had truly learned to inhabit the present.
Gerty took his arm. “Come and see?”
Johan gathered himself and nodded. “Yes, of course. Mother, Father…”
“So many friends!” added Gerty with a giggle.
Johan took a deep breath. He’d been so immersed in his community life that he hadn’t thought of his own future. It wasn’t that Jesus’ invitation was unwelcome, but Johan knew that he would have to leave the people he had come to love so deeply.
“I need to say some goodbyes first,” said Johan, meekly, not wanting to seem ungrateful.
Jesus nodded. “Of course. We’ll be here, and ready when you are.”
Johan made his way around the dwellings and communal spaces of his community. He looked each person in the eye as he took them in his arms. Words were whispered of affection and emotions were shared openly before Johan gathered his focus for the new chapter ahead. The whole community came and wished Johan well, as he was ushered onto a seraph’s back by his excited sister.
A short ride on the seraph took Jesus, Gerty and Johan to one of the huge open gateways into the city. They climbed down from the seraph’s back just outside the city wall.
The three walked under the colossal arch and into a landscape of vibrant fields and lush meadows, interspersed with wooden houses with exposed beams. Rolling foothills led to impressive but small mountains away in the distance. A figure stood up from sitting under a huge weeping willow.
Johan’s face broke into a broad grin. “Chester, you’re here!”
“Got here yesterday!” said Chester, throwing his arms around Johan.
“Chester has had an interesting journey since you last saw him,” said Jesus. “But you have all the time you need to hear about it.”
Gerty grabbed Johan’s hand, pulling him, just as she did as a little girl. She still had the unmistakeable air of someone who had not witnessed the suffering of the Previous Age. Though she was now a grown woman, there was an unbridled joy and enthusiasm for life that she had never lost. Johan marvelled at her infectious spirit.
The four made their way along a pathway that wound through the breath-taking scenery. Though Johan was enthralled by what he could see, his mind was now on seeing his parents. His heart raced with the anticipation of seeing them.
Gerty let go of Johan’s hand and ran ahead to a large building that reminded Johan of an alpine skiing lodge. As they neared the door, it opened. Johan stopped. The man and woman standing before him were strangers, and yet instantly familiar. He knew without doubt that it was his parents, there in the doorway, but they looked so young and happy.
His mother covered her mouth and his father held out his hands. Johan approached slowly, taking in the moment. The four family members held one another for some time, allowing the silence to hold their emotions.
Jesus went through into the kitchen and began making refreshments. The family began to talk, slowly at first. Soon they were taking turns to describe their individual journeys through the Previous Age and then on the New Earth. Laughter and tears of empathy flowed as they began to learn of the joy and the pain they had each experienced and the cathartic moments that had laid the path to this moment.
“Johan, there are loved ones you have yet to meet,” his mother said as they ate the food Jesus had prepared.
Johan put down his plate.
Johan’s father cleared his throat. “Johan, there’s something that we haven’t talked of yet.”
Johan looked into his father’s eyes and knew immediately what it was.
“Dad, you were gay.” Johan smiled.
His Dad broke into a surprised smile and then laughed. Johan’s mother put her hand on his dad’s arm.
“Yes, son. I was.”
“Your Dad loved a man,” continued his Mum.
“Eustice,” said Gerty.
“It’s ok, Dad. I knew you were gay before I died.”
“Eustice is here, too,” continued Johan’s mother. “All of us consider him a dear friend.”
“And what of you, Mumma?” asked Johan. “Were you lonely in the Previous life?”
Johan’s mother opened her hands. “I knew your father loved me as a wife, he loved me as much as he could love a woman. We remained married until he died. However, I knew that Eustice gave your father things that I could not. I grew to accept that and chose to love who they were together. Eventually we became a secret family, the three of us. Eustice cared for me after your father died. We all sacrificed so much to honour one another. We chose love and putting one another first. It wasn’t always perfect, and yes, I was sad sometimes.”
Johan’s father took his mother’s hands. “This woman showed Eustice and I what grace looks like.”
Jesus stood leaning against the worktop in the kitchen, listening intently. Johan looked up at him, as if looking for his thoughts.
“Even during war, having lost their daughter and their son, and in the misery of post-war Germany, these three reached out to goodness and demonstrated love in their intentions and their actions. I condemn no-one, but I do know when a human heart can understand, accept and demonstrate Agape Love enough to dwell here in Zion.”
“You have all looked to use your imperfect willpower to chose to honour other people, putting their wellness above your own. You have each realised the integrity that comes with a humble spirit.”
“I think it’s fair to say,” said Johan’s father, “that we all accepted how poor of spirit we were. Your mother, Eustice, myself – we were all humbled by life. All we could do was to believe a better day would come.”
“This is the way; the path to life,” said Jesus. “You’ve all found that serving your own desires only leads so far, but love can open up the future to so many possibilities.”
“What has survived from the Previous Age?” asked Johan’s mother. “We brought nothing material into Zion, only what was alive to us on the inside.”
“Faith, hope and Agape Love,” said Jesus. “These qualities are what remain. What you had of these within you when you died in the Previous Age is what you awaken to here in this Age.”
“And the experiences of those of us, not initially brought into Zion, served to cultivate these,” said Johan, thoughtfully.
“And now we all have so much of these that we can forever share them with everyone!” laughed Gerty.
The conversation continued for many more hours. A swelling of gratitude was felt among all gathered in the room. Nothing from their entire existence was wasted and they could see clearly the wisdom of Jesus’ gentle shepherding.