The Effects of Heaven (a creative story)
The Effects of Heaven
By Nick Keutzer
Have you ever had one of those days that changed your entire life? Was it one of those days that felt like it lasted an eternity? Then when it was over you knew that it would take an eternity for you to forget it. My name is Sam and I once had a day in which I both saw the most sinful parts of the universe and looked into the face of God.
I am the second oldest child out of a family of four. My three brothers are Matthew, Jacob, and Paul. My mother called herself Christian not by any kind of conviction, but more because she felt an obligation. She had been taken to church every weekend as a child, so she thought it was only proper to do the same for us. She took us to church every chance that dad let her. He didn’t exactly agree with her religious activities. In fact, he would constantly say things to her like, “I would love to meet this God and tell him everything He did wrong when He spoke this screwed up planet into existence.” Dad wasn’t really abusive as much as he was just apathetic towards anything not directly concerning him. Even though they both cared about our futures, we knew that neither of them had very high expectations for us.
Coming from this background, it was surprising to everyone, including myself when I was baptized. It seemed that all of mom’s perseverance during my childhood had paid off. While getting ready for the service that morning, my pastor prayed with me and told me the significance of being baptized. He explained that it was a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus that Christians are to do as a confession before others. While I believed this, I knew that it held even more significance for me. I was the only person in my family, whom I knew of, that had ever been baptized. All three of my brothers had gone off to live their own foolish, sinful lives.
When I came up from the water, I suppose I felt the usual emotions: happiness, gratitude, and relief. But soon these feelings became very bittersweet. This was because I knew that, in an instant, I would give this joy away so that my brothers would not have to go to Hell. It wasn’t right. It’s not like I had done anything better or was made superior to them in any way. I just made a choice- one that they neglected to make.
I drove home, with my new Bible in the seat next to me. I was told that when you become a Christian, God “gives you a new heart.” It felt like that happened to me, only the procedure was a little cruder than I had expected. Not just that, but it was beating a lot faster than usual. I pulled up to the small apartment complex where I lived. Inside everything was right where I left it. I sat down on my bed and sorted through the packet the church had given me. There were a couple bookmarks and a generic letter from the pastor. Then I saw a paper that read, “New Believer’s 30-Day Devotion Plan.” I took my Bible from the place I had cleared for it and I flipped it open to the first reference on the sheet: Psalm 1. It read, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” As I finished reading the passage, I thought I heard something from behind me. It seemed like it was surrounding me- almost like I was being watched. As a Christian, I knew that you are supposed to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Was this it? I looked around the room and I saw nothing. Just as I began to feel a little calm for the first time all day, I heard a voice. Someone said, “Read it again.”
Caught completely off guard, I looked up and saw a bright figure positioned in front of me. It was something that words cannot explain. It didn’t really have an outline; it was more of a white light that took up the amount of space of a man. It spoke in a very solemn monotone. I couldn’t really make out a face, but somehow, it seemed to be making an expression. It looked like it was expecting something. It almost seemed like it could anticipate what I was going to do next. After a minute, one that felt like an hour, it repeated, “Read it again.”
Not knowing how else to respond, I again read, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD…”
I had to stop reading because the light that made up the figure had suddenly become much more intense. It was so bright that it overwhelmed all of my senses. The light was blinding and I was terrified. I closed my eyes, but that hardly made a difference. Suddenly, I heard a voice; only this voice was not a monotone as the other. It was livelier and it seemed to drown out everything else that was happening. This purely white light, brighter than anything I had ever seen, enveloped my whole being. The deafening voice said, “Sam, do not be afraid. With you am I am pleased. For you have not dwelt in the counsel of the wicked. Nor have you stood in the path of sinners. You have accepted my gift of salvation because of that; my Son’s death has claimed another victory. I know that you live your life careful to follow my decrees.” He paused, and then resumed with a question that would change me forever. “Sam, do you love me?”
“Yes,” I replied. It was such a simple answer, one that felt inferior to the question being asked. Could it be a trick question? Would the Creator of the universe do that? If He really does know everything about me, then why would He even need to ask that?
As my own thoughts droned on, He gave a response: “I know you love me, Sam. However, I also know of your brothers. They have not seen the truth that I have to offer. They have lived their lives apart from my love.” I started to feel an overwhelming sense of guilt come over me. Was that why God was here, talking to me? Was He here to make me feel bad about not giving my brothers a better presentation of the gospel? It’s not like I never tried to talk to them about what the Bible said. I did, several times, actually. They always shot me down, laughing at how I just needed “something to believe in.” Either that or they just ignored me completely. But now, I have completely lost touch with them. Regrettably, I gave up on them. I assumed that God would use someone else to do what I couldn’t. It wasn’t something that I really chose to do; it was just something that my subconscious seemed to decide. I was tired of explaining something when they did not care what I had to say.
“Yes, I know that you have tried to tell them of my love and it is not your fault that they have not listened to what you have said. However, it is through my power that they will listen to you. It is through you that I will not let your brothers go to Hell.”
I then realized that God was not here to condemn me, but to help me. “But how can I convince them that you are the LORD when they have never listened before. I can only imagine that their hearts have grown harder over this time. In fact, I don’t even know where they are or how to contact them.”
“Sam, you have been unable to show them a gospel they can accept, because you cannot properly relay it to them. This is not a discredit to you, but to them. They have lived their lives in darkness and you have always known of my ways. For you to explain Scripture to your brothers would be the same as attempting to explain a beautiful world to a man who has been blind his whole life. To help you relate to your brothers’ “blindness,” I am going to send you to places around the universe where you will be exposed to the sins of your brothers’. As for your not knowing where they are, I will provide a way for you to reach them.”
“God, I don’t believe I am fit for such a mission. I am a new Christian and I don’t know very much about the Bible and…. I think that there are many people who are more qualified to do such a thing. Maybe even someone who has seen what my brothers have seen. That way, you won’t have to send me anywhere to experience such things.”
“Child,” He said with authority that can only come from the Heavens, “I have chosen you to do this because you are the only one able to have such an impact on them. I will give you the words to say. However, once I have shown the darkness that they have seen, you will know how to approach them with my truth.”
As I was too overwhelmed to give a response, the glorious light slowly dimmed. My senses began to come back alive as I looked around and saw that I was no longer in my small apartment. I was several miles above the earth and could barely make out the roof of my apartment. I continued to rise into the atmosphere, yet I somehow felt no fear during the event. I had a sense of peace that I couldn’t explain. This experience continued undisturbed for some time. Although my view did not change, the voice of God started speaking to me again. He said, “Sam, the first place that I am sending you to is the planet Mercury. Mercurians live caring for no one but themselves. They resort to thievery on a daily basis and don’t care how their actions affect anyone. It only matters to them that they get what they want.”
I knew why I was being sent here and it was all too familiar. My brother, Matthew, had made it his life’s objective to become better than everyone else. He decided when he was very young that he could not be happy until he had more money, more possessions, and a more successful carrier than anyone he knew. He got caught shoplifting several times during his teenage years. Back then it was never anything major; the biggest thing he had been caught for shoplifting was a CD. Since he left the house, though, I have no idea what he has been doing.
As I was moving through the universe, I looked around and saw nothing. Nothing except black emptiness surrounding me on all sides. Every so often a star would flicker in the far off distance. Was I floating slowly through the vacant space? Maybe I was propelling forward at the speed of light. It was impossible to tell. Because of the extreme lack of oxygen, there was nothing for my skin to feel so I could determine what my velocity might be. I progressed toward a huge grey planet. I quickly came down through its atmosphere and observed that it had a very rough surface. I was about to land in a valley between two large rocks. Was I going to be in danger? Were there going to be “humans” as I knew them? My feet abruptly touched the planet’s surface and I looked around. There was a dull, yet bright illumination and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had a headache. I approached the edge of a rocky cliff and when I looked over, I saw a busy, crowded metropolitan area that was full of life. I trekked my way down and examined the life forms. There were very few differences between them and humans. One of them was that their heights all varied greatly from one another. Their sizes ranged from 2½ ft. midgets to 9 ft. giants. The only other difference was not really a physical one, but simply that they seemed to take no notice of their fellow beings. Their eyes were always wide-open and focused strait ahead. They walked briskly and sort of hunched forward. They all seemed to move about as if they had one determined destination. I walked casually through the crowd and received some strange looks, as I obviously did not carry the same attitude as everyone else.
I was walking past a large broken down building when a door opened and I was suddenly pulled inside. Back on earth, I had been used to being called a very “tall” six-foot guy. So, when I saw the 7ft. man who was now hunched down in front of me, I was quite startled. His eyes were so wide open that his eyelids were barely visible.
“Hi,” he spoke in a deep, yet squeaky voice. “My name is Marcus. You’re not from around here, are you?” He didn’t really leave me time to give an answer. “Do you think you could help me out- do me a little favor? Do you see that little guy out there- the one surrounded by his midget posse? Well, his name is Narma. He and his gang stole an ancient vase that has been in my family for many generations. It was the only thing I had left of any value. If you get it back for me, I will make sure you get a quality meal tonight. And trust me, you don’t want to have to be searching for food at dinnertime in a place like this. So, what do you say? Oh… and I think that I may have missed your name.”
“My name is Sam,” I hesitated, and then asked, “If this guy has stolen something so valuable to you, then why can’t you just get it back? After all, they are only midgets.”
“It’s not that I can’t. I’m able to stick up for myself. It’s just that I tried to get the vase back once already and if I try again, he will see me coming. I know they look like a couple of tiny, defenseless men, but when they are in a group like that, they can take down almost anyone. They just pushed me aside the first time, but they won’t be so merciful the second. They won’t be expecting anything if you come up behind them. But if you don’t hurry, you won’t be able to find them!”
“Well, I do not know how long I will be staying here, so the assurance of a meal would be helpful.” After thinking for a minute, I had made my decision. “I don’t see what I have to lose. I’ll do it.”
“Thanks, friend,” said Marcus with a creepy smile. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”
I slid out of the door and into the crowd. I hunched over and walked quickly so I would blend in and have a better chance at catching the thieves. Finding your way around the plaza wasn’t hard. It was just a large rocky court with a couple damaged buildings placed randomly throughout it. I briefly saw Narma and his posse as they were walking to the other side of one of the large structures. I decided to sneak up on them by going around to the other side. I ran to look around the corner and saw that they were moving toward a door on that side of the structure. There were three others with him: two females and a male. Both of the women were holding something that could be the size of the vase. As they were walking my way, I started to start walking briskly by them. When I came by the women, I grabbed the object that she had wrapped in cloth, which I assumed was so no one could recognize what it was. I suddenly felt much more resistance than I had expected.
She screamed, “No! Let go of my baby! Let go! Narma, help me!” I quickly let go of what I saw was a tiny baby girl. I was appalled at my own actions. She looked like a newborn and I had just tried to wrestle her from her mother. The others turned around to see what had happened and I saw that the other boy and girl were this mother’s children. Narma was her husband. They were a family. The daughter had the vase and the goal I set before myself took over. As I ran to take it from the poor girl, her father tackled me and grabbed my throat and had me in a deadly hold.
“Why are you doing this to my family? We have done nothing to you and yet you try to take my baby girl. When you are unable to do so, you try to steal a vase that we just purchased from the market!” He was obviously enraged and I had no excuse that could pay for my actions. “Well,” he protested, “do you have anything to say for yourself or should I just kill you right here?”
“Words cannot express my regret, Sir. A man told me that you had stolen that vase from him and I was trying to get it back for him. I now see his deceit and that you are simply a kind family. I am so sorry for the trauma that I have caused you. I beg that you would please spare me.”
“The man that told you I stole this- what was his name?”
“He told me it was Marcus,” I replied.
“Well, Marcus was lying about one thing: we did not steal this vase from him. However, we did pilfer it from the market. It is just so sad that no one watches their booths carefully enough,” he remarked sarcastically. “And that is something that you are not going to tell anyone. I am going to make sure of that.”
I could already barely breathe when Narma began to combine a squeezing and twisting motion on my neck. I didn’t know what I could do; I felt so helpless. Being strangled by a midget because of thievery on Mercury- was that really what God wanted for me?
Time slowed down and the same bright light that was in my apartment, started to overcome me. The pressure on my throat decreased as the pain on my eyes increased. God was here with me and I was scared. I jumped in the middle of two crimes and made myself a crook in the process. He began to speak to me saying, “Sam, I know the plans I have set before you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. I have set up an amazing future for you, one in which you will not soon parish, but continue to be a blessing to me. You have served your purpose here on Mercury. I need to send you to your next destination: Venus. The Venians are a people who, similar to your brother Jacob, are very self-destructive. They do not care about their own well-being. They are only concerned with satisfying all their sinful desires.”
In an instant the Creator of the universe was gone and I was left propelling through space again. I thought about my brother Jacob and how he had ruined his life. He had a great life, with a good job, a beautiful wife and three great kids. That was until I got a call from my sister-in-law saying that she taken the kids and left him. She said it was because of several addictions, as well as an affair he had. I knew that he could get it all back if he would just hand his sins over to God.
As I moved through space, I came toward what looked like a yellow rainforest. As I came nearer to the planet’s surface, there was a colorless acid that filled the air. The acid had no smell or anything else distinguishable about it. Scientifically, I would already be dead due to the acid, if not for God’s intervention. My feet gently hit the ground and I looked around. Unlike Mercury, the surface was very smooth. I continued walking and I came into a clearing that was even heavier with the moist acid. I began to hear soft sounds in the distance. It was like a low murmur, which was followed by a dull laughter. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. My heart began to beat faster as I didn’t know which way to go. I just stood still as the noise seemed to be coming from above me.
Just when I looked up, a creature fell out of the sky, landing a few inches in front of me. It landed upright, without a scratch. I perceived it to be a common male Venian. Other than being completely hairless, he resembled a natural human. His eyes were glazed over, yet he seemed to be fully responsive.
“Hey, I’m Emmett! I don’t think I’ve seen you before. What’s your name?” He spoke so fast that I felt like he was going to launch wildly into the air again at any moment. While he talked, his eyes blinked rapidly. He was very anxious and it seemed like every muscle in his body was twitching.
“Hi Emmett, I’m Sam,” I stopped short because he gave me a look as if I was a sort of alien. I guess that was only right, considering that’s what I was. However, it was less like he was examining what I was and more like he was noticing what I wasn’t. Finally, his expression turned to one of concern. Since it seemed like it was up to me to make the conversation continue, I asked, “Is there something wrong, Emmett?”
“When was the last time that you got burned?”
“Why, Am I OK?” I started checking myself for a mysterious flame that had sprung up on my body. I felt my skin patted myself down until I realized that the word “burn” must mean something different to this Venian. “What do you mean by the word “burn”?
“Burn? I mean, how long has it been sine you went way up high, since you ran faster than the stars, since you felt really, really happy? Like this.” He then jumped so high that he reached the atmosphere and dove back down, making a loud shrieking sound all the way.
I then understood that “getting burned” for the Venians was our equivalent of “getting high” (something that he very clearly just demonstrated for me). I experimented with drugs a little in high school, but I soon learned that the feeling was not worth what it did to my body. Seeing that this was all that mattered to the creature at the moment, I told him it had been a long time since I had been burned.
Looking both stunned and amazed at the opportunity he had found. He said, “You must come with me! I had a dull and boring life, filled with hopeless dreams. Then I found something that changed my life forever. It made my life fun and exciting. I soon forgot about those dreams that used to be important to me. I knew that I had found something better. I will bring you to a place that will finally give your life the meaning you really want. It will be fun!”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can do that.” I knew that getting stoned was not the way that this trip to Venus was supposed to go. “It would be against my beliefs to do so,” I said. I knew that it was a weak answer, but the truth was that there was a part of me that wanted the drugs he had to offer. On this dull planet, I could understand why people would resort to drugs so much. Everything in the boring landscape was just begging for some excitement.
Once again Emmett was looking at me quite dumbfounded. He said, this time as a command and not a statement: “Come with me.” He grabbed my arm and launched the both of us into the sky. We soared through the atmosphere as he continued to make the loud shrieking noise that I couldn’t explain. I held on tightly to his arm and thought, “If he wants to have an exciting life, doing this all day would surely be enough.” When we had finished our descent, we came down in front of a small structure that looked like a green house. It was made from a moist, transparent material that had the same texture as plastic. He opened the door and pushed me inside. The tiny building was packed with Venians. They stood together, lining the walls and covering the ground. Most of the creatures were either unconscious or just barely awake. In the center of the room there were several stones that formed a circle and out of it grew a single plant. It was a dry looking shade of green with small bluish balls growing off of it. Emmett leaped to the center of the room, took a ball off and handed it to me. When I took it, it felt similar to a peach, except its shape was perfectly spherical. Suddenly, I realized that everyone’s eyes were wide open and they were watching me intently.
“Bite it,” Emmett softly whispered. “What could one bite hurt?” So, I bit into it, hoping to give those around me what they wanted to see. Suddenly, a misty acid sprayed out from the object, smothering me. The spherical object seemed to somewhat deflate and I continued to chew on what was left until my mind suddenly blacked out.
When I woke up, I was flying through the air and screaming at the top of my lungs. I wasn’t entirely aware of what I was doing. I remember my eyes being wide open and my head feeling very fuzzy. The only thought I could keep in my mind for more than ten seconds was how far I was going to jump the next time my feet hit the ground. I bounced in and out of the atmosphere many times before I saw that back the greenhouse Emmett was lying dead. Being somewhat brought back into my senses, I pondered how this could have happened. Did I do this? Could I have landed on him? Did he do this to himself? Still unable to control myself, I ascended into the air again. My mind was so clouded, as I slowly seemed to be coming to a stop in mid air. I stayed floating there for a moment. My head was still throbbing when I realized that it was God who was holding me there.
“Sam, I have one last destination to which I am going to send you. I have sent you to Mercury and Venus. You have experienced the lowest places that two of your brothers have ever seen. Now I am going to send you to Pluto. Its inhabitants have never seen the light of the sun. This is similar to your brother Paul, who has never seen the light of my Son. This is the most disturbing of the planets you will have visited today. I am present in Pluto, just as I am in any part of the universe. However, the Plutonians have become so accustomed to the darkness that they have done everything that can to block my light out. They have even created false lights so that others may not find me, but run towards an imitation of me. If you ever need me just call out my name and I will answer you.”
My brother Paul was the oldest and the most headstrong of the family. He got out of the house and more importantly, out of the church, as soon as he could. He was a smart student, so he quickly got into a secular college that continued to affirm his hatred of all things “spiritual.” He was introduced to the college lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and partying every night. I have never seen my mom cry more than on the day that we got the call from him saying, how happy he was that he made the decision to be an atheist.
From where I was on the outside of Pluto, it was a light brown color. This proved to be only true from the atmosphere, because as I moved down, I saw that the air itself seemed to be pitch black. When I had landed and had achieved a decent footing, I walked a few feet, one step at a time. I continued this until I tripped over a rock that was sticking out from the ground. I stood up and started walking again. I stumbled around some more and I decided that there must be a better way to get around on this planet. I bent down on my hands and knees and felt for something I could use to feel my way around. I found that felt similar to a long piece of bamboo. I started walking with my new prop, feeling my way through the darkness.
Off in the distance, I saw a flickering light. It looked light a star that had set itself down on the landscape. Excited to see anything that would illuminate the world around me, I started moving as fast as I could towards this bright light. I used my stick to propel me through the darkness. As I got closer, not only did the light seem to get brighter, but also I became more and more exhilarated. I seemed to be moving faster as I could feel the air rushing by me. I got excited and I shouted out, “God, is that you? Is that your light I see?”
From behind me I heard, “Yes, Sam. It is I. Come to me and I will protect you form the darkness.” I twirled around on my stick and saw that the voice was coming from another light that had appeared. Quite confused, I turned around and saw the light I was following seemed to either shrink or go farther away.
Then I heard, “Child, it is I. Come and I will wash your fears away.” This time it came from yet another light far off to my left.
I heard another one say, “Sam, I am your God. Run to me and I will save you.” All of the many voices echoed each other. Stumbling in the darkness after voices that all sounded the same was the most disorienting thing that I have ever experienced. I ended up running around in circles for what felt like hours. More lights flickered on and off than I was able to count. The whole time, I thought that one of them had to be from the one, true God. I darted towards the lights, just as a moth does to a fire. At long last, I caught up to one of the large sources of illumination. When I ran into the center of the glow, there were two figures, both of them looked human from what I could tell. One of them pointed at me and laughed.
“I told you there would be someone foolish enough to run into our light, thinking that it was from some great God that would rescue them,” one said.
“Well, I guess you were right. I just couldn’t believe that there would actually be anyone on this planet who thought they really could get out of the darkness.” They each proceeded to punch and kick me. I found myself begging for mercy, but it was as if they were deaf to my pleas.
Out of desperation, I called out as loud as I could, “God, please answer me! God, I am begging you to rescue me!” As I finished crying out to God, the darkness overwhelmed me again. Was He ignoring me? Couldn’t He hear my prayer? Slowly, I sat up and looked around. God had listened to my prayer. I found myself in a dark room, softly lit only by a half open window in the corner. I realized that I was back in my apartment where I began.
God spoke to me again as he said, “Sam, you have completed the goal that I set before you today by going and experiencing the dismay that is caused by all of your brothers’ sins. You now have a much greater understanding of what it means to relay the truth of the gospel to someone who cares for no one but himself, or even someone who has denounced my name altogether so he can live in complete darkness.”
“LORD, although I do have a much deeper understanding of my brothers’ sins, I do not feel at all worthy of presenting the gospel to them. You see, while I was on each of the planets, I myself sinned against you. On Mercury, someone tricked me into helping them steal an expensive vase. On Pluto, a man named Emmett helped me to use drugs to try to make myself happy, when I know that you are all I need to be satisfied. And it is because of this choice that Emmett is now dead. On Neptune, I foolishly ran towards the false lights that you warned me against. Men who love the dark captured me and out of your goodness, when I finally called out your name, you still rescued me. God I am a sinner. If I stand before you condemned, just as my brothers are, then why should I be allowed to present the gospel to them?”
“Oh my child! It is because of the gospel that you are able to tell others about me, no matter how much you have sinned. That is what you needed to understand: my Son already paid the price for all your sins. So, you no longer need to feel guilty. Anyone can tell of my truth. The debt has been paid and all you need to do is trust that I will be with you as long as you continue to trust in my love.”
Suddenly, His voice was gone and so was the bright light. I was still in shock after all of the day’s events. I looked around the room and saw the light on my answering machine flicker. I pushed the “play” button and I heard: “Hey Sammy, It’s me- Jacob. I hope you’re doing all right. I’m here in Chicago and was wondering if we could talk for a little bit. It would be great if you could call me back when you get a chance. Thanks.” I wrote down the number that my bother left on the machine. I smiled. God did provide, just like He said He would. I realized that that is the gospel, after all: God providing a way for sinners.